Vernon R. Alden, a long time summer resident of Chilmark, died on June 22 in Boston from complications of pneumonia. He was 97.

Vernon, the son of a Protestant minister, was born on April 7, 1923, in Chicago and grew up in Moline, Ill., during the Great Depression. 

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor four months after he started at Brown University. He transferred into a Navy study plan and soon went to serve on a minesweeper in the North Pacific. He graduated from Brown and, later, from Harvard Business School. 

Afterward, he went on to work in the Northwestern University admissions department. Vernon had recently arrived at Northwestern and was living in the local YMCA when he was introduced to Marion Parson. They were married in the summer of 1951 after six months of dating,

In 1960, Vernon was a young associate dean of Harvard Business School. He was approached by John Baker, his friend and the president of Ohio University, with an offer to succeed him. At the time, the school was better known for its parties than its academics and he turned down the proposal.

But a year later, after a tour of the university and cajoling by the trustees, Vernon accepted. At 38, he was the university’s youngest president in almost a century. 

In 1964, Sargent Shriver, the architect of President Johnson’s war on poverty, asked him to join the task force planning the Job Corps, a part-time role that required regular commutes to the nation’s capital. 

In Ohio, he became an important ally of the White House, helping persuade Gov. James A. Rhodes to support national legislation aimed at revitalizing the Appalachian region. 

Vernon returned to Boston in 1969 to succeed Ralph Lowell as chairman of the Boston Company and its subsidiary bank, the Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company.

He became deeply involved in Japanese relations through several groups including the Japan Society of Boston, of which he was president or chairman for over 40 years. He advised a federal commission on Japanese relations and, when Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, was considered for Japanese ambassador.

In business and in academia, Vernon was an expert at gently twisting arms. One of his major achievements at Ohio University was convincing a number of wealthy donors to finance an expansion of a school that traditionally had relied on public money. 

He also created an honors college there, established more doctoral programs and doubled the university’s enrollment. In his last year in office, the university surprised him by naming a new library in his honor.

Vernon is predeceased by his wife, Marion Parson, who he was married to until her death of lymphoma in 1999. He is survived by his children, Robert, Anne, James and David, and eight grandchildren.