Alana Calmi, Media Relations Staff
On any given Friday, LaGuardia Airport General Manger Lysa Scully would be found in meetings with staff, closely monitoring weather and traffic patterns and assessing their impact on the airport, reviewing the week’s events, and planning for the week ahead.
Today, however, was no typical Friday. After 33 years with the Port Authority –the last six as general manager of one of the busiest airports in the country –Scully is hanging up her wings. Her last day began with a ceremonial water cannon salute on the LGA tarmac, followed by a farewell visit to each airport division.
“I wanted to spend my last day thanking the people who have made my life at work memorable and happy,” she said.
Scully has been LaGuardia GM during a remarkable period of transformation at the airport, balancing an $8 billion redevelopment project while working to maintain airport operations with minimal disruptions. LaGuardia serves 30 million passengers annually and employs about 12,000 people.
Asked what it’s like running an airport, she responded: “exhilarating, challenging, exciting, and tiring.” During her time as GM, she was involved in all aspects of airport life and maintenance, from amassing updates on airport operations to making sure the sidewalks are shoveled and accessible after each snowstorm.
Over the years, Scully became a role model for others as she was entrusted with increasingly challenging roles within the agency. She says she was also the beneficiary of great mentors who helped facilitate her journey in aviation.
“Life is about timing and taking chances, and I didn’t know anything about aviation other than the financial side,” Scully said of her initial move to the Aviation Department. Scully learned the business, working on strategy, development and customer-facing aspects of the airport.
But she still had not worked at an airport. That changed with Sue Baer, the legendary Port Authority Aviation leader who was the first and only person to run all three of the agency’s major airports. Baer took Scully under her wing and encouraged her to pursue a higher path in Aviation, helping facilitate her transfer to LaGuardia. In 2009, Scully was named LGA’s deputy general manager.
As a woman assuming the airport’s top job in 2013, Scully was determined to help other talented women attain similar Port Authority leadership heights. Last spring, she began discussions with LaGuardia’s Michele Delgado and Madeline Arango on creating an empowerment group for women employees. Eventually, the idea became Women Empowering Other Women (WOW), a support forum for women in aviation.
“Lysa is an incredible woman and leader with so much insight and industry knowledge,” Delgado said. “It was only natural she came up with the vision to create LGA-WOW. She’ll continue to be an inspiration, not only to all of the women at LGA, but to all women throughout the agency and the aviation industry.”
“My advice to women is very simple: to be yourself, do not be afraid to speak up, and not be afraid to take risks,” Scully said. “It’s all about giving back to the women behind us—we’re only here for a moment.”
Scully was raised in Westville, N.J., with her immigrant mother, father and siblings. She jokes that she was “born in front of the oven,” since her family owned and ran a pizzeria. She got a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Rutgers University, and an MBA in Finance from New York’s Pace University.
She also holds an Airport Certified Employee (ACE) designation from the American Association of Airport Executives. Scully will remain on the Board of Trustees at Vaughn College and continue to be involved in Kiwanis activities, in an effort to assist children who do not have access to many opportunities.
“I admire the drive and commitment of the students to better their family status through education. Many of the students are first generation Americans, and first in their family to attend college, as was I,” Scully said of her commitment to the Vaughn College board.
In retirement, she says she’ll take some time to catch her breath, enjoy her husband and family, work on her golf game and hike in various countries around the globe. Still, she concedes, it’s hard to leave her LaGuardia family behind.
“It’s very bittersweet, this is a family we have here at LaGuardia,” she said.