By Bill McLean
ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY BLITT
By Bill McLean
ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY BLITT
Stephanie Knight served as the primary organizer of the T-Rex Sue unveiling at the Field Museum in 2000.
Sue—who was named after explorer and fossil collector Sue Hendrickson, not by a mama and papa dinosaur—was hatched 67 million years ago, give or take a few centuries.
The focal point of the event for which Knight is planning now is considerably younger than the remains of one of the best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimens ever discovered. The Holiday Boutique presented by the Women’s Board of Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital turns 44 next month.
Knight and her Women’s Board cochairs, Lisa Chang and Dana Geldermann, eagerly anticipate 51 vendors setting up shop for early holiday shoppers November 16 to 18 at the Lake Forest Recreation Center. The Opening Night party on November 16 starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m. Hours for the next two days of the Holiday Boutique are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Friday) and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Saturday), respectively.
Fifteen percent of the proceeds will be earmarked for the hospital’s 2023 initiative, mental health.
“It was after the Sue event when I realized, ‘OK, I’m an event planner. This is what I truly love to do,’” says Knight, who grew up in Winnetka and has been a Lake Forest resident since 2010, except for the year (2016) she and her husband, Tim, and their children (Lake Forest Academy students Quinn, 17, and Fitz, 14) lived in Cleveland.
But her baptism in event planning occurred when she was Stephanie Powell, a New Trier Township High School junior. Her mother, Caryl, and late aunt Midge Powell nudged her to join the Junior Board of the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center (now Rush University Medical Center).
Stephanie signed up and later spearheaded a fashion show that doubled as a fundraiser for the center. The Junior Board also raised funds via pancake breakfasts.
“My mother was a board member of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (now the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab),” Knight, a 1985 NTHS graduate, recalls. “I remember helping her by stuffing envelopes at home. She was active in a number of charitable organizations, and my father (the late Robert E. Powell, a longtime Inland Steel Industries executive) helped everyone and was an amazing man. He was the kindest, nicest, hardestworking person.
“I was raised to give back to those who are less fortunate because of all the blessings we’ve been given. The message my parents delivered to me, through their actions, was, ‘Be kind, be charitable.’”
Next month’s Holiday Boutique has generated the kind of buzz around the North Shore that would make any event planner envious. Knight praises her sister, Lake Forest resident and Holiday Boutique Social Media Chief Katie Brickman, for that hubbub. Sixty percent of the 51 vendors will be first-time participants, including some from New York, California, Florida, and Connecticut. Their lines have been featured in Town & Country, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, and The New York Times, as well as on TikTok and the platforms of Instagram influencers.
Among the local vendors are Toffee Traditions (Highwood), The Forest Needle (Lake Forest), and Bunny & Babe (Winnetka).
“My focus is on our vendors,” Knight says. “We’re excited about the number of vendors that will be there. At least five of them will take up space in the hallways; that’s how squeezed we are. Thank you, Recreation Center!
“What people love about the Holiday Boutique is the opportunity to complete their holiday shopping in three days, maybe in only one,” she adds.
Elawa Farm will be there, too, as the provider of lunches and snacks. So will California- based Poppy Gifting, co-owned by Lake Forest native Peggy O’Brien.
“I’m demanding, direct, and determined,” Knight says of her let’s-get-it-done-right leadership style. “I don’t waste time. And I love my co-chairs. Lisa and Dana have been wonderful partners throughout our planning. What drives me as a co-chair of the Holiday Boutique, in the weeks leading up to it, is cutting costs. The more costs you cut, the more money the hospital will receive for its important mental health initiative.”
Knight majored in art history at Hollins College (now Hollins University) in Hollins, Virginia. She worked at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., for nearly three years, rising to the post of assistant to the director of education. Her next stop was at CARE, an international humanitarian organization.
She worked in sales at Ralph Lauren in Chicago and was the director of development at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago for four years.
Her tenure at the Field Museum lasted 10 years. In that time, Knight assisted the president, ran auxiliary boards, and served as an event planner and major gift officer.
A man named Stephen Hawking requested a tour of the museum one day.
Knight showed the brilliant theoretical physicist around.
Stephanie and Tim got married in 2005. Tim Knight has been the president and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation since 2020. The foundation’s mission is to invest in organizations working to build thriving communities where all individuals have the resources and opportunities to succeed, without regard to income, race, ethnicity, gender, or ZIP code. He had held significant posts at the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, among other media groups.
“My husband is funny, smart, well-read, and quick-witted,” says Stephanie, who enjoys exercising, playing mah-jongg, and being around friends. “Our kids are quickwitted, too.
“I like to laugh,” adds the stellar—and no-nonsense—event planner.
The 44th Holiday Boutique will be staged at the Lake Forest Recreation Center, 400 Hastings Road, in Lake Forest, November 16 to18. To purchase tickets to the Opening Night party (November 16) and to the boutique’s other two days, visit nm.org/wbboutique or call 847- 535-6921. Follow the boutique on Instagram at @holidayboutique23.