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Palmer Speare, the first president of Northeastern University
from 1917-1940, was a leading figure in the field of education.
He laid the foundation and charted the direction for the development
of Northeastern. During the 43 years that he devoted to Northeastern,
the institution developed from a small school to one of the
nation's largest private universities.
was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts,
on March 31, 1869.
His father, Charles Speare, built, owned, and operated steamships,
one of Boston's prominent citizens
during the 1860s. His mother, Jeanette
Palmer, came from a distinguished Maine family. She was educated
in private schools, and admired for being a great entertainer,
a skilled musician, a dancer, and an equestrienne.
a child, Speare lived for several years in Florida, New York,
and Pennsylvania with his mother and uncle, while his father
restored his business following the Civil War. Once back in
Massachusetts, he attended the Chauncy Hall School in Boston,
and Sandwich High School in Massachusetts. After graduating
from Bridgewater State Teachers' College (Bridgewater, Mass.)
in 1889, Speare served for several years as principal of Avon
High School (Avon, Mass.), as a teacher at Berkeley School in
Boston, as director of the evening program in the city of Medford,
Mass., and as an English teacher at the Boston YMCA. In the
summer of 1896, Speare was a tutor at the Camp Idlewild for
Boys at Lake Winnipesauke, New Hampshire.
1894 to 1896, Frank Palmer Speare was enrolled in education
cources at Harvard University. Speare was awarded the honorary
degree of Master of Humanics by Springfield College in 1912,
and later received honorary LL.D. degrees from Northeastern
University (1931), the University of New Hampshire (1934), and
Harvard University (1941).
1897, Frank Palmer Speare married May Cushing Whiting, who died
in 1912. He married Katherine Vinton in 1914. Their daughter
Marjorie was born in 1919.
was a member of the Massachusetts Schoolmasters' Club, the Harvard
Teachers' Association, the University Club, the Boston City
Club, Trinity Church, St. John's Lodge of Masons in Boston,
and the Church of Christian Science. He was also a founding
member of the Lakes Region Music Festival Association (Wolfeboro,
Palmer Speare died on May 29, 1954 at the age of 85, following
a lengthy illness.