Susan Baer ’72, a pioneer in the fields of transportation and aviation, died in August at her home in Upper Montclair, N.J., of cancer.
Baer was the first person to manage all three major New York metropolitan airports, the first woman to run the Lincoln Tunnel, and the first woman to serve as aviation director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. She played a pivotal role on the morning of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Baer, who was on duty at Newark Liberty International Airport, stopped all departures from Newark 14 minutes before the Federal Aviation Administration closed the nation’s airports.
The skills women use to keep their families running smoothly are the same skills that can make them effective leaders, Baer told Barnard Magazine in 2010. Women, she said, can often take on risk more readily than men because women’s egos are less tied to their jobs.
In a speech she gave at a United Way event in 2010, Baer said, “You can better understand a problem and begin to solve it more effectively when you sit down together at the table. Of course, I usually cook or bake something to eat, too, because it never hurts to have the table piled high with good food and even better desserts, and no one wants to solve a problem on an empty stomach.” Baer loved to cook, especially the Pennsylvania Dutch recipes she learned from her mother.
Born in Allentown, Pa., Baer earned her bachelor’s degree in urban studies and anthropology from Barnard and an MBA from New York University. A dedicated member of her class, Baer served as a Reunion planner and class president.
She received the Distinguished Alumna Award for her work as manager of the Newark Airport at her 30th reunion in 2002. After she retired from a 37-year career at the Port Authority, Baer joined an engineering consulting firm, Arup, where she served as a global aviation planning leader.
Baer is survived by her husband, Joseph Martella, a retired Port Authority police captain and their children, Nick, Lizzie, and Jack, as well as a sister and two brothers.