In Memoriam: James M. (Jim) Clark


James M. “Jim” Clark, advisor to and benefactor of our Institution for more than thirty years, died at his home in Woods Hole on October 24, 2015. He was 93. 

“No individual in the history of our governing board has had a greater personal impact on the Oceanographic than Jim,” said WHOI President and Director Mark Abbott. “He was a model of trusteeship and philanthropy in the best sense of conscientious oversight and stewardship, and he always endeavored to ensure that WHOI lives up to its public trust. Jim embodied strength of spirit, integrity, and dedication to advancing the Institution's research. We are forever grateful to Jim Clark.”

Jim’s collaborative leadership, with fellow trustees and executive management both, enabled our Institution to nurture the creativity of scientists, engineers, students, and mariners who have made discoveries and technical advances far beyond the imagination of our founders. Knowing that historical context, Jim always placed the long-term welfare of the Institution above all considerations, with a humility of understanding and faith that its mission of exploration, discovery and education would forever take the Institution in new and frequently unexpected directions. That understanding and faith was evident in the variety of ways that Jim strived to sustain WHOI. He advised and participated when asked, supported when needed, and often gave unexpectedly, recognizing unspoken needs and anticipating opportunities. Since 1985, he served on several Board committees, including Executive, Nominating, and Campaign, and he served as President and then Chairman of our Corporation from 1991 to 2004. His loyalty was exemplary; if WHOI called, Jim answered.

WHOI has had no greater ambassador than Jim Clark, who also introduced countless friends to the Institution over the years. He hosted numerous outreach events and attended countless others, and he recruited both Trustees and Corporation Members, creating new and valued connections with the Oceanographic. His wife, Ruth, affiliated with WHOI since 1994, is an Honorary Member of the Corporation, and his son, Jamie, is a Member of the Corporation since 1995, Trustee since 2010 and President of the Associates Program. His nephew, Hays “Larry” Clark is an active member of the Corporation.

Jim was born June 3, 1922, and attended Cornell University, graduating in 1944. His career in finance included executive positions with Shearson Lehman Brothers, Inc., and Hornblower & Weeks-Hemphill, Noyes, Inc., where he was general partner and CEO. He also had many philanthropic board affiliations.

The Clark family has a long history of support for WHOI. Jim’s parents, W. Van Alan and Edna McConnell Clark, made many generous gifts to the Institution including funds to construct WHOI’s largest building, Clark Laboratory on the Quissett Campus. It was dedicated in 1974 and named in their honor.

Jim once said, “As a layman, I keenly feel the responsibility for not just maintaining but improving the financial stability and wherewithal of the Institution. Our goal is to help relieve, if even by some small measure, the financial pressures placed upon our scientists so that they may have a freer mind in pursuing their scientific goals. They are the top-notch in their field of endeavor. It is our job to be the top notch support team backing them.”

Jim’s foresight and dedication established the Penzance Endowed Fund in Support of Assistant Scientists in 1993 with a challenge grant by Jim Clark. In 2006, Jim and Ruth funded the Clark Arctic Initiative at WHOI to launch high-risk, high-reward research and technology development that has enabled multiple breakthroughs on Greenland Ice Sheet dynamics, current patterns, ecosystem changes and other properties of the rapidly changing Arctic.

Jim held a special place in his heart for the research vessel Knorr, which was recently retired. “Knorr will always be a special part of my memory bank,” he said at the ship's retirement party earlier in 2015. “When I think of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, of Woods Hole itself, and of days at sea, I think of Knorr. I have traveled many miles on her to wonderful places with extraordinary shipmates: scientists from all over the world and always a peerless crew. I shall miss her magnificent horn blasting across Woods Hole Harbor and the excitement her departures and returns always generated in the village. As I see her depart on her final voyage from Woods Hole with a tear in my eye, I say God Bless, dear lady. You will be missed!”

Jim was known to enjoy his frequent visits to the Institution, and many of WHOI's scientists, staff, and ship's crew have fond memories of their conversations with him, which often included remembrances of his service in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II. Jim and his family have extended advice and support to WHOI over the years, and he will be sorely missed. His legacy will continue to be felt for generations.

Jim is survived by his wife Ruth P. Clark, and son James M. (Jamie) Clark and his wife Kathy; and his grandchildren, Sam Clark and Nathan Bebo. His brothers Hays Clark and W. Van Alan Clark, Jr. predeceased him.

A funeral service will be held at noon, on Friday, October 30,, at the Church of the Messiah, 22 Church Street, Woods Hole, Mass. Interment will be private.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation for Falmouth Hospital, P.O. Box 370, Hyannis, Mass., 02601, or the Highfield Hall & Gardens, PO Box 494, Falmouth Mass., 02541.


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Jim Clark (6)

See Also

Tribute at R/V Knorr retirement party

WHOI VP for Marine Operations thanks Jim Clark for his support and reads a statement from Jim.