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Title:Frank Palmer Speare papers
Call Number:M1

Historical Note

Frank Palmer Speare [FPS] (1869-1954), the first president of Northeastern University, was a leading figure in the field of education. He laid the foundation and charted the direction for the development of NU. During the 43 years that he devoted to NU, the institution developed from a small school to one of the nation's largest private universities.

FPS was born in Dorchester on March 31, 1869. His father, Charles Speare, built, owned, and operated steamships, and was 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.

As a child, FPS lived for several years in Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania with his mother and uncle, while his father was restoring his business after the Civil War. Once back in Massachusetts, FPS attended the Chauncy Hall School in Boston, and Sandwich High School in Sandwich, Mass. After graduating from Bridgewater State Teachers' College (Bridgewater, Mass.) in 1889, FPS 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, during the period in which he taught at Berkeley School, FPS was a tutor at the Summer Camp Idlewild for Boys at Lake Winnipesauke, New Hampshire.

From 1894 to 1896, FPS was enrolled at Harvard University, taking courses in education. FPS was awarded the honorary degree of Master of Humanics by Springfield College in 1912, and later received honorary LL.D. degrees from NU (1931), the University of New Hampshire (1934), and Harvard University (1941).

1897, FPS married May Cushing Whiting, who died in 1912. He married Katherine Vinton in 1914, and their daughter Marjorie was born in 1919.

FPS served as the Educational Director of the Evening Institute of the Boston YMCA from 1896 to 1916. In 1916 the Institute was formally incorporated as Northeastern College. FPS was elected as the first president, and was inaugurated in March, 1917. He retired in 1940, and upon his retirement, was appointed President Emeritus of NU. FPS also served as a trustee and member of the NU Corporation.

From 1918 to 1947, FPS was President of the Board of Trustees and principal stock-holder of the Chandler Secretarial School in Boston, a private professional training school for women established in 1883.

FPS 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, New Hampshire).

FPS was a book lover with a special fondness for biography, stories of the sea, and travel. For the amusement of his friends, he wrote short stories. FPS also wrote several autobiographical accounts and articles on the history of NU, and composed and wrote the lyrics to a number of songs, including the "NU March."

FPS was an active and admired public speaker. His speaking engagements took him from Maine to Florida and as far west as Chicago and Detroit, and enabled him to acquaint a multitude of people with NU.

After a long illness, FPS died on May 29, 1954 at the age of 85.

Bouseman, John W. "The Pulled-Away College: A Study of the Separation of Colleges from the YMCA." Ph.D. diss. University of Chicago, 1970.

Churchill, Everett A. "History of Northeastern University 1896-1927." Paper, prepared for the Boston YMCA, [1927].

Marston, Everett C. "Origin and Development of Northeastern University 1898-1960." Boston: Northeastern University,1961.

The New York Times, Sunday, May 30, 1954. Obituary.(M 1. Box 1, folder 6.)

Speare, Frank Palmer. "Autobiographical Notes." Frank Palmer Speare Papers. (M 1). Northeastern University Libraries Archives and Special Collection Department. Box 1, folders 2-5.

White, Trentwell M. "University Where Study and the Job Meet." National Magazine, vol. LVIII, Sept. 1929. (M 1. Box 1, folder 6.)

"Who Was Who in America, with World Notables." Vol. V. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1973.(M 1. Box 1, folder 6.)