Frank 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.

Speare was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, 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, 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.

From 1894 to 1896, Frank Palmer Speare was enrolled in education courses 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).

In 1897, Frank Palmer Speare married May Cushing Whiting, who died in 1912. After her death, he married Katherine Vinton in 1914. Their daughter Marjorie was born in 1919.

Speare 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).

Frank Palmer Speare died on May 29, 1954 at the age of 85, following a lengthy illness.