Beverly Welles Baker

Beverly Welles Baker, 1964

B.A., Denison University
L.L.B., Cornell University

Retired Attorney

Washington, D.C.

Beverly Welles Baker ’64Beverly Welles Baker was a trailblazer for women at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), retiring from the organization in 1997.

Beverly graduated from Denison with a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics in 1964. During her time as a student, she was a sister of Pi Beta Phi sorority. For a few years after graduation, Beverly taught high school math. However, in 1974, 10 years after graduating from Denison, she embarked on a new journey, attending law school at Cornell University.

After graduating from Cornell, Beverly returned to Columbus, Ohio, as an associate at the firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease. She then began her storied career at the FCC as a staff attorney in Washington, D.C.

When she started at the FCC in 1979, women were generally not able to rise through the ranks to hold management positions as easily as men could. In fact, only one woman had ever served in any management capacity. However, throughout her time at the FCC, Beverly had a tremendous impact on the state of women in management positions.

Beverly started at the FCC in the International and Satellite Branch of the Common Carrier Bureau, writing launch orders for communications satellites. She was then assigned to the Legal Branch of the Tariff Division in the Common Carrier Bureau, which dealt with telephone company pricing and service offerings. Around 1983, she became deputy chief of the Legal Branch and, shortly thereafter, branch chief. She was the fourth woman promoted to a management position, including those who had served in acting capacities as the FCC searched for males to fill these management roles.

During her time as branch chief, Beverly advocated for personal computer terminals on each of her attorneys’ desks. Although her efforts proved difficult at the beginning, she eventually was successful. Under Beverly’s leadership, the Legal Branch became the first in the FCC where all professional staff had their own computer terminals. In addition to this work, she also had the opportunity to mentor young lawyers, something she truly enjoyed.

After three years at the Legal Branch, Beverly took the job of legal advisor to the chief of the Private Radio Bureau (PRB) and, a few months later, was tapped to become deputy chief of the bureau. In that role, she authored the FCC rule allocating additional public safety radio frequencies to help first responders communicate in emergency situations. She also negotiated agreements with Canada and Mexico about sharing these frequencies in the border areas. Beverly was also the principal author of the FCC’s order establishing the Emergency Alert System, which was authorized in 1994 and went into effect at the beginning of 1997.

In 1994, the newly appointed chairman of the FCC asked Beverly to become the chief of the Field Operations Bureau, the largest and oldest bureau of the FCC. Beverly was the first female and the first non-engineer to hold this position. It was in this position that her Denison degree in mathematics truly shined — once the word got out that Beverly was a math major in college, the engineers in the office understood that she was able to comprehend their technical work. Beverly successfully modernized and streamlined the bureau and retired in 1997. Shortly before she finished at the FCC, the Commission awarded her with its Gold Medal, the highest award that is only given to four or five members of the entire FCC staff each year.

Since 1997, Beverly has spent meaningful time with her family and friends and has traveled all over the world. As a Denison alum, she has remained a loyal and regular donor to the annual fund, supporting the university’s highest priorities, and has volunteered her time as a president’s associates volunteer and as a member of her Reunion Gift Committee. Beverly also devotes her time to the Smithsonian Women’s Committee to help raise funds for the Smithsonian, most notably running two prestigious craft shows each year.

Beverly has served her alma mater and her community well. Her connections to Denison extend beyond her undergraduate education. Both Beverly’s mother and father graduated from Denison in 1939 and 1938, respectively. Beverly has three children, Bill, JJ, and Sarah, and two granddaughters. She currently resides in Washington, D.C.