Vernon Alden ’45, whose life spanned WWII military service and successful careers in both higher education and financial services, as well as a remarkable record of giving, is remembered first for his enthusiasm and warmth.
“Everyone loved meeting my dad because he was so curious about life and so interested in everyone. His face would light up and he’d yell your name because he was so excited to see you,” remembers daughter Anne Alden ’78.
After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II and graduating from both Brown and Harvard business schools, Alden started in the Northwestern University admissions department. In 1960, while associate dean of Harvard Business School, he was asked to be president of Ohio University, serving from 1962 to 1969 and doubling faculty and student enrollment during his tenure. “I came to Ohio University in 1966 because of a diversity initiative he started,” recalls President Emeritus Roderick J. McDavis. “He started the Honors College, the Fellows program…and was responsible for the Black Studies Institute.”
“His vision for what could be was motivating and his courage for attempting and achieving big things was inspiring,” remarked President Emeritus Robert Glidden during Alden’s virtual memorial service. “And his joy of life was contagious.”
Alden later served as chair of the Boston Company and its major subsidiary, the Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company. By the end of the 1970s, he had helped grow a local firm into an international organization and the 15th largest U.S. investment management company.
Outside of his professional life, Alden became deeply involved in Japanese-American relations through groups including the Japan Society of Boston and the National Organization of Japan-American Societies. He was an advocate for the arts and a life trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Museum of Science, and the Children’s Museum. A devoted philanthropist, he established endowed funds at Brown, Ohio University, Ohio Wesleyan University, MIT, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and Northfield Mount Hermon School. A trustee and member of the Brown Corporation Board of Fellows, he was also a staunch supporter of the Brown cross country and track and field programs, endowing the track and field coaching chair, funding the Alden indoor track facility and the Alden Award, sponsoring the annual Alden Invitational, and becoming a founding director of the Brown University Sports Foundation.
He held honorary degrees from 13 universities, including Brown.
Alden passed away on June 22 from complications of pneumonia. He is survived by four children, including daughter Anne Alden ’78 and sons James ’81 and David ’87; and eight grandchildren.