Friday, January 2, 2009

Role Model Spotlight: Desiree Rogers

Desiree Rogers, 49, is a Chicago corporate executive and civic leader who streaked to the top of the city's A-list last month when President-elect Barack Obama announced that she would assume the role of social secretary in his White House.

Rogers, an Obama fundraiser and an executive at Allstate Financial, will oversee every White House social event from Easter-egg hunts to lavish state dinners (along with those oh-so-important guest lists). An invitation to make her acquaintance has quickly become one of the most coveted accouterments among the political elite.

Rogers will be the country's first African-American presidential social secretary when she settles into the job in January. And the requests for her presence at social events are already streaming in.

"She's going to get invitations hourly, truly," said Ann Stock, who served as social secretary during the Clinton administration.

Originally from New Orleans, Rogers has a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University, a philanthropic bent, a penchant for designer fashions, a diverse and powerful group of friends, and a reputation for stylish entertaining.

Her name appears regularly in the society pages in Chicago, where she is a fixture at fundraising galas and is on a first-name basis with city politicians, corporate executives and cultural leaders.

She is a well-known businesswoman who ran Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, a $1.1 billion utility in Chicago, from 2004 until June, when she became president of a unit of Allstate Financial.

And she is so fashion-savvy -- favorite designers include Carolina Herrera, Isabel Toledo and Valentino -- that she was profiled in 2004 by Vogue, which praised her as "proving that executive and chic can coexist."

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