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WHOI Waypoints McLean Bequest Contributes $5 Million to Institution

Noel B. McLean presided over an extensive period of WHOI’s growth as Chairman of the Board from 1961 to 1973. He worked closely with Director Paul Fye to move WHOI into new academic areas and to insure its future. Highlights of his term included purchase of the Quissett Campus, establishment of the joint education program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the marine policy program, and the addition of the research vessels Atlantis II, Knorr, and Gosnold, the submersible Alvin, and a DC-4 type aircraft to the fleet.

The Institution continues to benefit from his devotion to ocean science. Early this year, upon settlement of his wife Marion’s estate, a charitable remainder trust and her bequest brought more than $5 million in unrestricted funds to the Institution.

This bequest is the culmination of the McLeans’ long association with the Institution. Noel McLean joined the Associates as one of the original members in 1953 and served as their president from 1955 to 1961. He was elected a member of the Corporation in 1954, a Trustee in 1960, and Chairman of the Board the following year. Other areas of growth during his tenure as Chair included a doubling of the number of WHOI personnel, a near tripling of operating funds, a sixfold increase in endowment fund market value, and a tenfold increase in real property holdings. The Redfield Laboratory and the Iselin Marine Facility were constructed and other buildings were designed and initiated during his term.

After 1973, Noel McLean continued to serve the Institution as member and chair of several committees. In 1980, as part of WHOI’s 50th anniversary celebration, the newly constructed geosciences laboratory was dedicated to Noel McLean, “distinguished industrialist to whom all of marine science is deeply indebted for his unusual interest and leadership in expanding man’s knowledge of the ocean in all its facets.” The McLean Laboratory provided critical new laboratory space that was integrated with archiving facilities for the Institution’s extensive collection of rocks, sediment cores, and other deep-sea samples as well as the data library that includes charts and maps, deep-sea photographs, and other data taken at sea. A 1991 addition to the building houses the National Ocean Sciences Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility.

Noel McLean was with the Bendix Aviation Corporation from 1927 to 1946, serving as General Manager of the Philadelphia plant and later of the company’s marine division. He then became Executive Vice President and Director (and later President and Chairman of the Board) of Edo Corporation, a supplier of highly engineered products to governments and industry worldwide.

His services to oceanography were recognized in 1967 with the International Oceanographic Foundation’s Gold Medal, and he received the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award in 1972 “for outstanding service to the United States Navy in the fields of sonar development, anti-submarine warfare technology, and oceanographic research.”

Originally published: March 1, 2002