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Stanford Report, July 9, 2003

Najeeb Halaby, longtime university supporter and volunteer, dies at 87 1937 alumnus was trustee and member of IIS visitors board who advocated for better understanding of Islamic world


Onetime airline executive and Stanford trustee Najeeb E. Halaby, who managed successful careers in business, law and government but was perhaps best known as the father of Jordan's Queen Noor, died July 2, 2003, at his home in McLean, Va. He was 87.

The cause was congestive heart failure.

Halaby was a longtime supporter of Stanford and held several volunteer positions at the university, most notably as a member of the Board of Trustees from 1971 to 1974 and of the visitors board of the Institute for International Studies (IIS) from 1994 to 2003. (The visitors board is an advisory council of university alumni and friends.) He also was a founding member of the Stanford in Washington Advisory Council.

IIS Director David Holloway, the Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History, remembers Halaby as a pragmatist with a good sense of humor. With his business experience and close ties to the Middle East, the institute was fortunate to have him as a member of the visitors board, Holloway said.

"One of the things he really pressed us to do was to develop our work on the Islamic world, and I have to say that we didn't respond as well as we might have done," Holloway added. "And everyone is clear now that that was a mistake."

Born Nov. 19, 1915, in Dallas, Jeeb, as he was known, had parents from remarkably different backgrounds: His Lebanese-Syrian father was a naturalized U.S. citizen; his mother was the daughter of a Confederate soldier from Tennessee. Halaby graduated from Stanford in 1937 with a bachelor's degree in political science. He was a member of the varsity golf team and Sword and Sandals, a men's honorary dramatic organization. He went on to earn a law degree from Yale in 1940.

As a Navy test pilot during World War II, Halaby flew the first operational American jet plane and, in 1945, became the first person to make a nonstop, transcontinental jet flight. In 1948, he was made foreign affairs adviser to then-Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, and later served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs under President Eisenhower.

For several years Halaby directed his own law firm, N. E. Halaby and Associates, and served as president of a Los Angeles-based venture capital company. In 1961, President John Kennedy appointed him head of the Federal Aviation Agency (which later became the Federal Aviation Administration), where he was known as a hands-on administrator and for his efforts to establish stringent safety regulations. He also was known as a staunch supporter of equal opportunity for minorities.

In 1965 he joined Pan American World Airways, where he served as director and senior vice president until 1968, the year he was elected president. He was elected chief executive officer in 1969 and chairman the following year. His tenure ended somewhat tumultuously, however, when he was forced to resign by the company's board of directors, which blamed him for the airline's deepening financial problems. (In fact, his leadership of Pan Am coincided with a nationwide recession and increased competition among airlines.)

After leaving, he helped to create an air academy to train aviation-industry workers across the Arab world. In 1978, his daughter Lisa Halaby married King Hussein of Jordan.

Halaby also served as chairman of the American University in Beirut and on the boards of many other organizations, including the King Hussein Foundation, the Jordan Society, the Hariri Foundation, the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies and the Eleanor Roosevelt Cancer Research Institute.

In addition to Queen Noor, he is survived by his wife of six years, Libby Cater Halaby; another daughter, Alexa Halaby; and a son, Christian Halaby.


Najeeb E. Halaby