As a Q&A with Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann wound down, J.B. Pritzker asked the question everyone at the Economic Club gala was wondering: How does President Donald Trump‘s executive order about immigration affect the Silicon Valley company?
“Forget my company or the country,” Silbermann said. “I think it’s bad for the world.”
A cheer erupted from the usually staid crowd of civic and business leaders dressed to the nines at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.
Moderator and Chicago businessman Pritzker prompted another whoot! when he pressed Silbermann about moving his company to Illinois. The tech CEO noted there’s an office in Chicago. “It’s not big enough!” said Pritzker, a reminder that, yes, he’s thinking of running for governor.
The annual Economic Club dinner is famed for bringing in big speakers. Elon Musk, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and SpaceX, spoke a few years ago. Silbermann didn’t disappoint.
“I just signed up (for Pinterest) during his talk,” said Desiree Rogers, CEO of Johnson Publishing and board chair of Choose Chicago.
Other execs dished about how they use Pinterest.
Civic leader Nora Daley looks for recipes and decorating ideas.
Jesse Ruiz, the Drinker Biddle & Reath attorney who also heads the board of the Chicago Park District, says Pinterest helped him visualize ideas for building a new home.
Marc Schulman, president of Eli’s Cheesecake, uses Pinterest to follow food trends. Brooke Wiseman, CEO of Blessings in a Backpack, finds inspiration from motivational quotes on the site. And Thomas McElroy, CEO of technology company Level-1, keeps track of neckties on Pinterest.
John Lawrence, a campaign analyst at Digilant advertising technology firm and a collector of “Star Wars” memorabilia, says Pinterest is “a great source of inspiration for how to display and store my collection.”
Even Donna Zarcone, the Economic Club’s CEO, is hip to Pinterest. The club used Pinterest to design its new offices.
Beth Heller retiring — sort of
Beth Goldberg Heller, the longtime vice president of marketing for Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group, is retiring after 22-plus years with the company.
“Harry Caray’s has been my family. I’ve worked here all my adult life, and now I want to take a break,” said Heller.
Heller started in 1994 as a hostess during summer breaks from college. After earning a marketing degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, she was promoted to the restaurant group’s first marketing assistant.
She’ll remain a partner and consultant to CEO Grant DePorter. And she’s signed on to co-chair the next Green Tie Ball, which benefits Chicago Gateway Green. DePorter is chairman of the board.
Her leaving “is a relative term,” said DePorter. “I do think I’ll still talk to Beth every day.”
Heller started at Harry Caray’s when there was one location: the River North flagship steakhouse. Today, there are seven restaurants, a museum and a catering company.
“Opening the Chicago Sports Museum was a major highlight for me,” says Heller, a sports fan. She helped curate the memorabilia.
She also helped organize the promotional and philanthropic events and activities that have made Harry Caray’s part of Chicago’s cultural scene, including blowing up the cursed foul ball of the 2003 postseason game between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins. (Heller wears a necklace with a little piece of the ball.)
Totally ready for total eclipse
Chicago attorney Gary Ropski has already reserved hotel rooms in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming to view the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, the first in 38 years in the continental United States.
He’s an eclipse chaser who’s traveled the world to see eight eclipses, though clouds blocked the views of three of them.
Eclipse chasers look for that perfect viewing spot or the “path of totality,” when the moon completely covers the sun. “It’s eerie, mysterious and exciting,” says Ropski.
He and his wife, Barbara Schleck, are teaming up with a fellow eclipse chaser who will have climbed mountains and mesas to find a good viewing site in either Idaho or Wyoming.
Ropski is an intellectual property attorney at Brinks Gilson & Lione. He just celebrated his 40th year at the 100-year-old firm.
He’s also an astronomy geek. After sitting in on a Chicago Astronomical Society talk about the 2001 solar eclipse, he and Schleck said, “Let’s do it.”
The next year, they set out to see their first eclipse in South Africa. Cloud cover, though, prevented them from seeing much.
In 2006, the Ropskis traveled to Libya. It was an era of delicate political relations, but the undaunted couple found a way and camped out with 5,000 fellow eclipse chasers in the Libyan desert to catch the sight.
“It was one of best I’ve ever seen,” Ropski says. “It was a pie in the sky for four minutes.”
Ropski also sails on Lake Michigan, and once a year travels with fellow patent attorneys to sailing competitions. They’ve visited France, Brazil, New Zealand, Italy, Sweden and Capetown, South Africa.
“It’s a fascinating way to see the world,” Ropski says.
Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.