Oakes Ames, Conn president emeritus, dies

February 18, 2019

Oakes Ames, president emeritus of Connecticut College and the college’s president from 1974 to 1988, died Feb. 12 of Parkinson’s disease at his home in Stowe, Vt., according to a death notice in The New York Times. He was 87.

Conn posted news of his death on its website Friday. 

Ames arrived on Conn’s New London campus in 1974 with his wife, Louise, and his four children, bringing to the college a refocused emphasis on the sciences, economics, career and athletics, the Conn post says. He proved to be a skillful financial manager, balancing the college’s budget each year and spearheading an ambitious campaign that added more than $33 million to the college’s endowment.

“His vision steered the college through the first decade of coeducation, while navigating the challenging waters of one of the deepest recessions of the second half of the 20th century,” Conn President Katherine Bergeron wrote in a letter to the college community. 

An accomplished experimental nuclear physicist, Ames was born in 1931 in Boston, the son of Amyas Ames, a successful investment banker, and Evelyn Ames, a poet and writer known for her work on wildlife and the environment. He graduated from Milton Academy in Massachusetts and earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1953 and a Ph.D. in physics from The Johns Hopkins University in 1957.

Ames was on the faculty at Princeton University for nine years before moving to the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His research, published widely in the scholarly journals, focused on experimental nuclear physics, atomic beams, astrophysics and pedagogy. He served as chairman of the physics department at SUNY Stony Brook before being named president of Connecticut College.

At Conn, Ames oversaw the construction of the Charles E. Shain Library at the heart of the campus, converted the former Palmer Library into the Blaustein Humanities Center, opened an indoor athletic complex and the ice arena now known as Dayton Arena, and renovated New London Hall and its laboratories with equipment that was at the time considered state of the art.