James McConnell Clark of Woods Hole and Palm Beach, Florida, died on October 24 at his home in Woods Hole. He was 93.
Mr. Clark was married to Ruth P. Clark.
The generosity of Mr. Clark and his family benefited many in the Falmouth community and beyond. He and his wife funded the Clark Cancer Center at Falmouth Hospital and the James and Ruth Clark Radiation Oncology Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, established the Clark Arctic Initiative at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and were instrumental in the restoration of Highfield Hall & Gardens.
Mr. Clark was born in Suffern, New York, to Edna McConnell Clark and W. Van Alan Clark. His grandfather, David H. McConnell, was a door-to-door book salesman from Oswego, New York, who went from selling books to selling perfume and cosmetics. In 1886, he founded the California Perfume Company, which later became Avon Products. Van Alan Clark joined the firm and eventually became chairman of the board.
The Clark family became summer residents in 1923, first in Waquoit, then on Penzance Point, eventually settling in the former Warbasse house at the end of Penzance.
James Clark graduated from Loomis School, then attended Cornell University, taking an accelerated engineering program that allowed him to graduate in early 1944 and attend midshipmen’s training. He served on the USS Riverside until 1946. During that time he was promoted to chief engineer of the ship, which transported troops to and from Okinawa, Japan, and did the “Magic Carpet” run, bringing troops home at the end of the war.
Upon completing his naval service in 1946, Mr. Clark opted not to join the family at Avon, where his older brothers were already employed, but to strike out on his own in the business world. He worked first at the Bristol-Myers Company working in the manufacture of toothpaste, antibiotics and other medical products. This was followed by a stint working the night shift at American Paper Goods, a company that manufactured envelopes, bags and waxed cups. By the early 1950s, he had landed on Wall Street as a trader for the firm Hemphill, Noyes & Co. His career at the New York Stock Exchange spanned many decades as he followed Hemphill, Noyes through mergers and acquisitions and rose to become the CEO and director of Hornblower, Weeks, Noyes & Trask, which in 1978 became Loeb, Rhoades, Hornblower & Co. In 1990, he retired as chairman and partner from its successor firm, Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc.
His parents, Edna McConnell Clark and W. Van Alan Clark, established a legacy of philanthropic support, which their son fostered throughout his life. Mr. Clark served as a trustee of Cornell University from 1978 to 1986, and in 1986 was elected a trustee emeritus and a presidential councillor, the highest honor Cornell bestows upon alumni leaders. The Clark name is carried on several facilities on the Cornell campus, including Clark Hall and the James McConnell Clark Atrium in Cornell’s Physical Sciences Building. The Hays and James M. Clark Director of the Office of Undergraduate Biology is a position funded by the Clark family.
Mr. Clark and his family dedicated considerable time and financial resources to support scientific and medical research. WHOI’s largest building, the Clark Laboratory on the Quissett campus, was built with Edna and Van Alan Clark’s gift. James and Ruth Clark established the Clark Arctic Initiative at WHOI in 2009, which has enabled research on the changing Arctic ecosystem. The Penzance Endowed Fund in support of assistant scientists was established in 1993 by a challenge grant from them.
Mr. Clark served as president, then chairman, of the corporation of WHOI from 1991 to 2004 and as trustee emeritus until his death. In 2009 he was presented the Cecil Green Award that honors “individuals who have made outstanding contributions to oceanographic research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.”
The Clarks were also instrumental in the restoration of Highfield Hall & Gardens, where Ruth Clark serves as a trustee emeritus. From 2005 until his death, Mr. Clark provided significant financial support to ensure that the building could be properly restored and successfully operated as a cultural center and historic site. The Clark Gallery and The Clark Library at Highfield Hall honor the Clarks’ role in the community restoration project.
Mr. Clark was a trustee emeritus and former chairman of the board of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, a foundation started by his parents that is today one of the largest family foundations in America. He was also the president of the Penzance Foundation and the Sealark Foundation, family foundations that have supported many charities across the country. His other affiliations included being honorary trustee of The Lincoln Center Institute and the New York City Mission Society; life trustee of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital; trustee of The Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research; member of the Presidents’ Circle of the National Academy of Sciences, former trustee of the Marine Biological Laboratory and emeritus member of the MBL Society.
In 2009, Mr. and Ms. Clark received the “Outstanding Philanthropist” award from the Philanthropy Partners of Cape Cod, in honor of their commitment to the Cape through their support of WHOI, Cape Cod Healthcare, and Highfield Hall & Gardens.
Known to many as Skipper, Mr. Clark was an avid sailor and spent much of his free time on the water. His love of the sea began at a young age in Waquoit where he listened with keen interest to stories told by his neighbor Charles Swift, a retired whaler who had shipped out on a Falmouth whaling ship when just 15 years of age. For many decades, Mr. Clark participated in the Newport-Bermuda and Marion-Bermuda races, going so far as to design his own boats with the help of his friend, Halsey Herreshoff. In his 44-foot sailboat Farfelu, he accumulated a lifetime of his own stories as he cruised from Nova Scotia to Key West and all points in-between. Jim Broda of Falmouth, who sailed many an excursion with Mr. Clark on the Farfelu or on the motorboat Sealark, called Mr. Clark “the captain of humor and master of cockpit lore.”
In addition to his wife, he leaves his son, James McConnell Clark Jr. and his wife, Kathy Clark, of Dallas, Texas; and two grandsons, Sam Clark and Nathan Bebo.
He was predeceased by his brothers, Hays Clark and W. Van Alan Clark Jr.
A service was held October 30 at the Church of the Messiah in Woods Hole, followed by a public reception at Highfield Hall & Gardens.