Honoring the life of GDA|TLC President Emeritus Merrill “Bud” Melvin

Bud Melvin passed away on Thursday, December 1, 2022, at the age of 92.

Sisters and Brothers,

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of GDA|TLC President Emeritus Merrill “Bud” Melvin. Bud passed away on Thursday, December 1, 2022, at the age of 92. Few people are more important to GDA|TLC’s history than Bud.

Bud began his career in Los Angeles as a railroad machinist, working his way up from the shop floor to General Chairman of District Lodge 19. In 1982, Machinists (IAM) President William W. Winpinsinger tasked  Bud with saving the school from bankruptcy. When Bud assumed his role as President, International Guiding Eyes (IGE) had only $7,000 in the bank, yet it cost $70,000 a month to operate. 

Bud immediately went to work, securing loans and interest-free mortgages from the IAM, saving IGE $1.3 million in payments. Next, Bud created the first Las Vegas fundraiser, famously asking attendees not to come to reduce costs. His first dinner raised over $100,000, and he grew the event to $300,000 by the time he retired.  

Bud’s accomplishments are endless. He cultivated corporate partnerships, increased national fundraising events, got IGE recognized by the combined federal campaign, established financial transparency, engaged civic and social organizations, and promoted the school tirelessly. He solicited involvement from Hollywood, orchestrating publicity from stars such as Betty White, David Hasselhoff, and Heather Thomas. As proud as Bud was of the financial rebound, he was even more proud of the fact that IGE had continually grown the number of guide dogs placed each year since he started.  ­­

Before he retired, Bud had one final contribution to make to IGE. Noticing that other Guide Dog schools were raising significantly more from the combined federal campaign, he realized the school’s name was confusing people and inhibiting fundraising. At Bud’s direction, the school changed its name in 1992 to Guide Dogs of America.

The school’s turnaround under Bud’s leadership was nothing short of remarkable; without his perseverance and dedication, the school would most likely not exist today. The Melvin family requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Bud’s memory to GDA|TLC. Please keep Bud’s family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Fraternally Yours,

Russell Gittlen

President – Director, GDA|TLC