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09 Sep
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Elizabeth Bailey, Who Helped Deregulate Airlines, Dies at 83

In March 1979, on an Eastern Airlines flight to Tallahassee, Fla., from Atlanta, a flight attendant got into a disagreement with a late-boarding passenger who insisted that the airline was obligated to place her in a nonsmoking section, rather than in the back of the plane among the puffers. When the attendant welcomed passengers over the plane’s intercom several minutes later, she was still miffed.

“We wish everyone a good trip except for one lady in the back,” she said, according to news accounts.

The attendant should perhaps have done less arguing and more accommodating, because the complaining passenger was Elizabeth E. Bailey, the first woman to be appointed to the Civil Aeronautics Board, which regulated air travel at the time. Dr. Bailey was certainly in a position to know that the board had indeed changed its rules a few months earlier to require that a passenger who requested a nonsmoking seat be provided one. (Previously, once a plane’s dedicated nonsmoking section became full, a nonsmoker could be seated with the cigarette crowd.) In the end, the smokers in Dr. Bailey’s row agreed not to smoke; the airline later apologized to her.

That small battle was evidence of what Dr. Bailey told Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, during her confirmation hearing in 1977, when he asked whether she had the “steel” to be a minority member of the five-person aeronautics board.

“I hope so,” she had said. “I’m tougher than I look.”

Dr. Bailey would need that toughness during her six years on the board, the last three as its vice chairwoman. During this period, the board set in motion the deregulation of the airline industry, something Dr. Bailey fully supported in the face of considerable resistance, including from established airlines.

Dr. Bailey went on to have a distinguished career in academia. When she was named dean of the Graduate School of Industrial Administration at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 1983, she became the first woman to hold that post at a Top 10 graduate business program.

Among her other firsts: In 1972, she became the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in economics at Princeton. She accomplished all that she did while being a single mother to a son with intellectual disabilities and serving as his principal caregiver for most of his life. In 1969, dissatisfied with the opportunities available to children like hers, she helped start the Harbor School in Monmouth County, N.J., for children with disabilities, and served as its founding vice president.

Dr. Bailey died on Aug. 19 at her home in Reston, Va. She was 83.

Her sister Marion Bestani said the cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Bailey was appointed to the aeronautics board by President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat. (She was a Republican, and the board was required to have two members of the minority party.) Mr. Carter was interested in deregulating the airlines, and he was impressed by Dr. Bailey’s credentials as an economist and the record she had built working at Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, N.J., where she led an economics research group.

Dr. Bailey said she had been impressed with Mr. Carter’s vetting process.

“I was one of four Republican women on the list,” she told The Asbury Park Press of New Jersey in 1977. “What I liked was that the president didn’t want to appoint me until he had met me. He wanted to see if I had the energy to do the job and the courage it takes to make tough decisions.”

The Stevens Institute of Technology, where she earned a master’s degree in 1966, gave Dr. Bailey a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015, calling her “the embodiment of trailblazing.”

Elizabeth Ellery Raymond was born on Nov. 26, 1938, in Manhattan. Her parents, Irving and Henrietta Dana Raymond, were both college professors.

Dr. Bailey graduated from Radcliffe College in 1960 with an economics degree. She married James Bailey, a computer scientist who became a professor at Pace University, and they had two sons, James and William, before divorcing in the 1970s. James had an intellectual disability, leading Dr. Bailey and Dolores Turner, another parent of a disabled child, to found the Harbor School.

Dr. Bailey began working in the technical programming department at Bell Laboratories shortly after graduating in 1960. A 2017 profile of her in The Princeton Alumni Weekly described her job as “senior technical aid on an antimissile missile program, calculating trajectories of flying weapons and their debris.” But she was more interested in economic theory.

She had stories about the sexism she encountered at the company — for instance, being mistaken at high-level meetings for a secretary who was there to take notes. She eventually got Bell to provide the support she needed to earn her advanced degrees, and she ended up helping to found Bell’s economics research group and leading it until 1977. In the meantime, her doctoral thesis at Princeton became a book, “Economic Theory of Regulatory Constraint” (1973), a well-regarded text in the field.

After stints on the aeronautics board and as dean at Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Bailey joined the faculty at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1991, leading its business and public policy department from 1997 to 2005. She served on numerous corporate boards over the years.

“As a corporate director serving over time on Fortune 500 boards,” she said in a 2010 interview for the American Economic Association, “I have often been the only woman on the board.” She sought to rectify this imbalance through mentoring, and through her work with professional organizations. The economic association honored her efforts in 2009 by presenting her with its Carolyn Shaw Bell Award, given annually to “an individual who has furthered the status of women in the economics profession, through example, achievements, increasing our understanding of how women can advance in the economics profession, or mentoring others.”

Dr. Bailey was still caring for her son James later in her life, Ms. Bestani said, and made sure to get an apartment in Reston that had a connecting unit down the hallway where James could live. He died in the fall of 2018.

“We did two things on the same weekend,” Ms. Bestani said, referring to Dr. Bailey, “one of which was a memorial for him and one of which was an 80th-birthday party for Betsy.”

In addition to her other son, William, and her sister Marion, Dr. Bailey is survived by three other sisters — Henrietta Dana Raymond, Mary Carrington Salpukas and Margaret Hill Burlick — and two grandchildren.

Ms. Bestani recalled a particular moment from years ago that captured Dr. Bailey’s multitasking skills. During a family outing on a beach, the children were playing in the sand when a colleague of Dr. Bailey’s, a Dartmouth scholar, came by. They started talking scholarly talk.

“I’ve always remembered the juxtaposition,” Ms. Bestani said, “of her having this conversation about microeconomics while, at the same time, supervising the building of a sand castle.”

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