Elizabeth Pruett

              Classic Chicago Woman December 2017






   Illustrated by Rosemary Fanti





Written by Megan McKinney


Editors’ Note: Elizabeth Pruett’s father, Rhett Butler, prominent Chicago businessman and former Mayor of Lake Forest, passed away last week, following the completion and scheduling of this feature.


Elizabeth Pruett: First one observes her stunning smile—and extraordinary beauty . . . Then there is an awareness of a philanthropic commitment that includes personal benevolence . . . Also, a thirst for learning.

Once: Born in Buenos Aries . . . Triple citizenship: U.S., Argentina, Switzerland . . . Lake Forest upbringing: Lake Forest Country Day School, Culver Girls Academy, Franklin College Switzerland, DePauw University, BA in English literature . . . “Summers in Lake Forest were and still are idyllic. Time seemed much slower back then; reading books, playing tennis, swimming, riding bikes . . . I loved Cheley Camp in Estes Park, Colorado . . . One summer, a group of moms created a homegrown camp where we rode bikes from house to house, learning from other mothers: how to cook from a French chef, how to make miniature rooms, to paint, sculpt . . . Christmas break was Boca Grande; Spring breaks varied from Dominican Republic to Argentina, Hawaii and Florida . . . My family childhood memories are of my parents showing us the importance of helping others, doing the right thing, lifelong learning and seeing lots of museums.” 

Then: “My first real job was in college over two summers working on New Coke for Coca-Cola. I traveled all over the state and met so many wonderful people. After college, my love for magazines translated to getting a job at Family Circle magazine (for five years), then PEOPLE magazine (for 10 years). I still love magazines, information and stories.”

Now: Husband Shelby Pruett runs a real estate investment company . . . Children: Grayson, 16, and Shelby, 14, are both at Lake Forest High School, and Reding, 9, is in the third grade at Lake Forest Country Day School . . . Home is Lake Forest, but “we all love our summers fishing in Wisconsin.”

Current Focus: “I’m busy raising a family and keeping myself in check from doing too much. I love to be busy and relish quiet time, but miss my friends.”    

Other Interests:I’m passionate about health, the environment, children and teens—specifically exposing them to quality stories that teach them about themselves, about being good citizens and giving to others. An affinity for health, education, the natural world, fine arts and the development of youth and character have been the backbone of how I spend my free time.” 

For the Public Good: Community participation includes active membership on the Woman’s Boards of Chicago Botanic Garden, Field Museum and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, for which she is currently chairman of the December 22 Passavant Cotillion and Christmas Ball. She is an Advisory Council member of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, and is currently planning its April 1918 Gala; Chair of the Children’s International Film Festival at Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest; and serving as Conservation Chair for the Lake Forest Garden Club.

Classic Connections: Grandfather Leroy E. Burney,  Surgeon General for President Eisenhower, changed the face of public health and was from Burney, Indiana, founded by Elizabeth’s great-great-grandfather . . . Grandmother Mildred Hewins Burney, marched as a suffragette for the women’s vote . . . Grandfather George Butler cofounded a metal framing company in Chicago steel, which her father, Rhett Butler, took over . . . father was Mayor of Lake Forest in the mid-1990s . . . “I was raised by extraordinary parents who are culturally, civically and compassionately minded and just truly giving people, who have lived and breathed  family and philanthropy.” 

What’s Next: “My next step is to return to work in a couple years; I’m very excited about finding the right thing. Right now, I am so happy to be home with my children and enjoying them, but I do look forward to working again. Volunteering has been the perfect way to still give back and help others with great friends.”

On Chairmanship of the 2017 Passavant Cotillion: “This year has been filled with so many meaningful moments as Passavant Cotillion Chair. Getting to know such lovely and accomplished young ladies from Chicago and the environs, as well as exposing them to Northwestern Medicine, has been a true honor and delight. As a proponent of women’s health, integrated health, women in leadership at Northwestern, self-advocacy, sleep and happiness, it has been a privilege to educate the debutantes about those passions while showing them all the opportunities that women have at Northwestern Medicine—in and beyond medicine.”


Edited by Amanda K. O’Brien