Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Penny Pritzker (2013- ): Secretary of Commerce

Penny Pritzker was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1959. She was born into a wealthy family. Her grandfather established the family fortune through real estate and business investments. Her father was co-founder of the Hyatt Hotel chain. Penny Pritzker attended Harvard University, graduating with a degree in economics. She then received law and business degrees from Stanford University.

A noted businesswoman, Pritzker worked in family businesses as well as founding a number of her own, such as PSP Capital Partners and the Pritzker Realty Group. She was also involved in civic activities and philanthropy, serving on the Chicago Board of Education and the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Pritzker met Barack Obama in Chicago in the late 1990s and raised money for his U.S. Senate campaign. In the 2008 presidential election, Pritzker was the campaign finance chair for the Obama campaign and oversaw his successful fundraising efforts, including focusing on small-money donors and internet fundraising. After his election, Obama appoint her to the President's Council for Jobs and Competitiveness as Pritzker had vast business experience as well as deep contacts in the business world.

In 2013, Obama nominated Pritzker to be secretary of the Department of Commerce, which works to improve American businesses, making them more innovative and competitive abroad. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in June 2013.