Former Indiana First Lady Susan Bayh, who served for six years as an IJC Commissioner (1994-2001), has died after a battle with brain cancer. She was 61.
Bayh was appointed to the IJC by then-President Bill Clinton. She earned a degree in political science from the University of California at Berkeley and a law degree from the University of Southern California. She was an attorney, professor and started a nonprofit to fight adult literacy, according to news reports. She became Indiana’s first lady in 1989 after husband and Democrat Evan Bayh was elected to one, then two terms as Indiana’s governor.
“In a family whose name is synonymous with service and achievement, Susan stood out as a singular treasure: a model of goodness, generosity, and grace,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement. Biden lost a son to the same type of cancer that claimed Bayh’s life.
Pierre Béland, the IJC’s current Canadian chair, served an earlier term as an IJC Commissioner with Bayh.
“I remember her as a very kind person, always the one who would get us all to meet somewhere down in the middle --- a kind of peacemaker …” Beland said. “I also recall that you could always count on her help and support.”
William Bowerman recalls meeting Bayh at the IJC’s spring semi-annual meeting in 1994, her first as a Commissioner. He was part of an ecosystem work group presenting information on the impacts to wildlife from chemicals known as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).
“She was very astute about toxic substances and very interested …” said Bowerman, now a professor and department chair at the University of Maryland.
Bowerman was later appointed to the IJC’s Great Lakes Science Advisory Board. “I just found her to be very easily approachable, very knowledgeable. It was easy to talk to her about these really complex topics.”
In lieu of flowers, the Bayh family requests contributions to the Bayh Family Scholarship through the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. The family also posted a tribute video, which can be viewed below.
Jeff Kart is executive editor of the IJC’s monthly Great Lakes Connection and quarterly Water Matters newsletters.