Remembering Rhett Butler, Former President/CEO and Longtime Friend and Supporter of LFGSM

Lake Effects Blog

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (LFGSM) is sad to announce the passing of Rhett W. Butler, who served as President and CEO of LFGSM from 1999 to 2001, Board Member from 1986-1991 and was chairman of the Board of Directors from 1989 to 1991. He was a beloved husband, brother, father and grandfather and is survived by his wife Kay, their daughters Elizabeth (and husband Shelby) Pruett and Karen (and husband Tuey) Connell, and five grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister Lynne.

Friends and family describe Butler as a remarkable man, an accomplished businessperson, and a compassionate leader. He was able to anticipate change and point resources in the right direction, strategize and take decisive action, and listen and respect the people he worked with, all with a wry sense of humor.

Throughout his life, Butler was a great friend and strong champion of LFGSM and its mission. Associated with the school for more than 30 years, Butler first began teaching at LFGSM in the early 1980s. Upon his appointment as President and CEO of the Graduate School, Rhett said: “LFGSM is focused on leadership and success. Whether it’s individual students, faculty, staff, corporate clients, or alums, we focus on superior achievement and performance. That is the Graduate School’s great mission in the new millennium.” After leaving his post as president for medical reasons, he continued to support the school with public and anonymous donations, and he remained close friends with many staff and faculty members.

Butler, named “Rhett” after the Gone With the Wind character, was an exceptional business leader. After earning his undergraduate degree from DePauw University in Indiana and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern university, he went to work for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. where he was transferred to Buenos Aires. It was there he began to develop his interest and expertise in global markets. When he was still in his 20s, he left Goodyear to head the world trade division of the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry.

He then moved on to lead several more companies, including Unistrut, a family-owned company in Wayne, Michigan, and GTE Directories Corp., where he increased sales from $300 million to $1 billion. In 1985, he started his own investment company, Butler Products Corp.

During his career, he also found time to serve as the mayor of Lake Forest from 1992 to 1995, as well engage in one of his favorite hobbies: cross-country motorcycle touring.

Butler and his wife, Kay, were generous contributors to education, the arts and the community, and were actively involved with the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Community Association and the Art Institute of Chicago. Most recently, Butler served on the Board of Directors for the Lake Forest Symphony.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, January 19, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. at Christ Church of the Ascension at 4015 East Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, Arizona. A second service will be held for Rhett in Lake Forest in June, 2018.

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