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.



In recognition of Speare’s leadership in the development of the school, 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:

"The 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."


The invitation from Frank Palmer Speare's inauguration, 1917. From the Frank Palmer Speare papers (M01).


Governor Cox (seated) signing a decree giving Northeastern basic authority to confer degrees. From the Northeastern University Photograph Collection.



From 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.



In 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 in November.


Coverage of the Richards Hall cornerstone festivities from The Boston Sunday Post.


These 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.

Left: A 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).