Mary Ellen Crawford Ames ’40 passed away on Aug. 17, 2021, following a lifetime of achievement and adventure that spanned 102 years. For 70 of those years, she was an engaging presence at Wellesley as a student, class president, alumna volunteer, personnel director, and as the College’s venerable director of admission from 1969 to 1985. While granting the privilege of a Wellesley education to thousands of present-day alumnae, she implemented Wellesley’s celebrated need-blind admission policy, considering it her mission to bring to Wellesley “the quality of students we deserve and who deserve us.” A national trailblazer, Mary Ellen applied her expertise to cornerstones of the admission process: She was chosen for a committee of eight to develop the SAT content, served as a trustee charged with determining the policies of the College Entrance Examination Board, and sat on the selection committees of both the National Merit Scholarship and the Coca-Cola Scholarship. Wellesley’s current dean of admission and financial aid, Joy St. John, applauds Mary Ellen as “an amazing woman—a female leader in our field who was so proud of the growth and diversity of Wellesley’s applicant pool and who remained concerned that the application process continue to recognize the full humanity of students.”
Decades before her admission tenure, Mary Ellen was intent on making a contribution to America’s involvement in WWII through the American Red Cross Overseas Service. Deployed to England and France from 1943 to 1945, her colorful and often harrowing experiences included drilling under live ammunition fire, enduring the London Blitz with a buzz-bomb attack on hospital property, landing on Omaha Beach shortly after D-Day, interacting with German prisoners of war, and celebrating V-E Day on the Champs-Élysées.
Following her retirement, Mary Ellen continued to devote herself to her “den of men”—her husband, George, and their three sons and their families—while lending her signature “get-it-done” style to undertakings at Wellesley, Thayer Academy, and her hometown of South Natick. She served 15 years on WCAB’s Authors on Stage committee, devoted several decades to the Katharine Malone Prizes committee, and lent her skills to Wellesley’s New York Marketing Committee. Highly respected, she was also affectionately embraced, with the admission office living room and a Wellesley Vespoli crew hull both named in her honor.
Even well into her 90s, Mary Ellen retained her quick wit, living independently and maintaining a full schedule of activities and friendships. Clearly, this singular woman’s century of good works answered founder Henry Durant’s call for “a life of noblest usefulness.”