Who Is That Woman Behind The Mask?
Stanford-educated Julie Prusak traveled the world as a Rolex scholar, owned a business with her husband, Conrad, and is the 2011 Heart Ball chair. But you probably didn’t know this: Her first job was as a scuba instructor.
First, the scuba diving. Prusak enrolled at Stanford when she was just 16. Uber-intelligent? Probably. But her modest take is that getting into Stanford was easier then. An only child, she grew up in California and says her parents raised her “to be an adult.” She was very independent. Her vision was to become Jacques Cousteau.
At Stanford, she was part of a program with the Stanford-Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey. She became scuba-certified and by age 20, began teaching scuba. Upon graduation, she applied and was accepted as a Rolex scholar, available to young people considering careers in the underwater world.
The internship afforded her a year of extensive travel, working as an underwater photographer, scuba instructor and research assistant. “I had no idea what I was getting into,” Prusak says.
The jobs were awarded in Chicago, so she packed her VW Bug and drove to the Windy City. “I just went wherever they told me to,” she adds.
She taught scuba for 10 years. Unfortunately, she says, her Bachelor of Arts in human biology and Master of Science in biology weren’t going to generate much money. So she went back to Stanford to earn her MBA.
When she met Conrad through business school, his becoming scuba-certified was a condition of their marriage. He got certified, “but I didn’t teach him,” she says.
Thanksgiving in Hawaii
Eventually the couple started a successful business together, Ethos Consulting, but after their children were born, Julie put everything aside to concentrate on her family. This year, their son, Matthew, 18, is a freshman at University of Southern California; Kylie, 17, is a senior at Phoenix Country Day School; and Annie, 10, is a fourth grader at All Saints Episcopal Day School.
Julie and Conrad, who have made the Valley their home for eight years, are family-centric. Every decision they make, she says, is in favor of their children. The whole family loves to travel. Thanksgivings are spent in Maui, and Christmas has been in Paris. The children also scuba dive, with the older two taking their certification at the Great Barrier Reef, but neither shares her passion for the sport.
Christmas in Paris
The whole family enjoys vacation in China.
Having left the business world behind, Julie still applies business principles to almost everything she does. “I never meant to become a professional volunteer,” she says, “but when I quit working, I wanted to be involved.”
Her business experience benefits the organizations she serves, and she often ends up in leadership positions. “I approach problems from a different angle and am very bottom-line oriented,” Prusak says.
This year, she is chair of Ballet Arizona’s education and outreach committee. Last spring, she served as honorary chair of the Ballet Ball and now, she is chair of the Heart Ball. For the Nov. 19 gala, she has chosen the theme “Passion with Purpose.” The concept, she notes, is what makes the Heart Ball unique in the Valley.
Julie is decked out in red for the Rubies Ball.
“I’ve chosen the theme out of my respect for Heart Ball chairs who have preceded me,” she explains.
She has made an effort for every event associated with the Heart Ball, from fashion shows to luncheons, to be content rich. Eighty percent of heart disease is preventable, she says. “The only improvement comes when people change their choices. We know we should take care of ourselves, but busy moms are often the last on the list to take care of themselves.”
She chose the theme of prevention through education to honor the renovation of the Halle Heart Center. “It is the only heart museum in the country and focuses on teaching children to make healthy choices.”