Oakes Ames, an accomplished experimental nuclear physicist who served as Connecticut College’s president from 1974 to 1988, died Feb. 12 at the age of 87. Ames graduated from Milton Academy in Massachusetts and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1953 and a Ph.D. in physics from The Johns Hopkins University in 1957. He arrived on 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. Ames 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,” President Katherine Bergeron wrote in a letter to the College community.
Ames also invested significantly in campus infrastructure. He oversaw the construction of 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. A champion of emerging technology, Ames was at the forefront of integrating computers into the learning environment.