By Carolyn Gray Anderson
For the final Dean’s Distinguished Speakers Series of 2015, United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined Dean Judy Olian in a frank conversation about the future of U.S. business, trade and manufacturing. On her first day in office — arriving with nearly 30 years of experience and success in the private sector — Pritzker famously hung a sign reading “Open for Business” on her door to underscore her department’s commitment to American business leaders.
And if Pritzker is about anything, it’s business. “It’s fair to call her America’s top CEO,” said International Business Association President Apurv Aswathi (’15) when he introduced her. She grew up mainly in Silicon Valley, daughter of Donald Pritzker, who developed the Hyatt Hotels chain. An heir to that fortune, Secretary Pritzker founded and ran five different businesses in real estate, hospitality, senior living and financial services. “Building businesses was what was revered in my household and extended family,” said Pritzker, influenced early by her mother “to be a bit fearless.” She created Pritzker Realty Group in 1991; in 2010, she co-founded Artemis Real Estate Partners and founded PSP Capital Partners, a private investment firm, in 2012. She also co-founded The Parking Spot, the fastest growing company in off-site airport parking management.
Pritzker is the 38th U.S. Secretary of Commerce, sworn in on June 26, 2013, following a near-unanimous vote by the Senate. As chief commercial advocate of the United States, she leads the administration’s trade and investment promotion efforts. It’s the native Chicagoan’s first government position, and she is focused on promoting startup activity, bolstering trade and investment, supporting advanced manufacturing and helping American companies export overseas. A champion of children’s education and athletics, she has founded, with her husband Bryan Traubert, a number of programs to advance and invest in Chicago’s youth. She’s also an avid triathlete and marathon runner.