What developed into Northeastern University was originally founded
within the YMCA as a loose collective of evening institutes. Speare
recommended that the school become an official college headed by
a president and administered as an independent entity. The YMCA
Board of Directors approved Speare’s plan and voted in incorporate
the Evening Institute, renaming it Northeastern College in 1916.
recognition of Speare’s leadership in the development of the
Board elected him the first President of the college in 1917. At
the inauguration ceremony held on March 30, Speare spoke of the
new college’s mission:
purposes of Northeastern College are to give every ambitious man
who is willing to sacrifice for the achievement of an educational
ideal an opportunity to do so under the most favorable conditions;
to provide a school program adapted to his peculiar needs, during
his hours of leisure, at a price he can afford to pay; and to care
the work of the school into the home, office and society."
invitation from Frank Palmer Speare's inauguration, 1917. From the
Palmer Speare papers (M01).
Cox (seated) signing a decree giving Northeastern basic authority
to confer degrees. From the Northeastern University Photograph
1917-1920 Speare established satellite adult education programs
in other locations including Worcester, Springfield, Providence
and Bridgeport, CT. These branch schools offered courses toward
degrees in liberal arts, business and law. In 1922 Northeastern
College was renamed Northeastern University and the following year,
largely due to Speare’s efforts, the university secured general
degree granting power from the Massachusetts Legislature.
the years that followed, Speare focused his attention on fund raising
for the university. Repsonding to the school’s chronic lack
of classroom and office space, Speare embarked on the development
of an endowment that woud ensure Northeastern’s growth and
financial viability in the future. Having decided that the university
needed a larger campus, Speare collaborated with Trustee James Loring
Richards to raise funds for the school’s first building on
the Huntington Avenue campus. The building was named after Richards
to honor his successful fund-raising efforts. Ground was broken
for Richards Hall in September 1937 and the cornerstone was laid
of the Richards Hall cornerstone festivities from The Boston
two ceremonies and the subsequent dedication of the building in
1938 marked the last major events at which Speare officiated before
his retirement as President of Northeastern University.
letter from Frank Palmer Speare to the Members of Corporation of
Northeastern University, announcing his retirement. October 6, 1939.
From the Office
of the President (Speare) records (A01).