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Office of the President (Speare) records

Identifier: A001

Scope and Content Note

The materials in this collection cover the period that FPS was the Educational Director of the Evening Institute of the Boston YMCA, and President and President Emeritus of Northeastern University. The collection was received in one accession and was separated in December 1994 into personal papers (M1) and professional records (A1). The records consist of correspondence, committee and board reports, fund-raising information, newspaper and magazine clippings, and speeches and writings.

Materials documenting the Evening Institute of the YMCA and its ties to NU can be found in YMCA (Box 4, Folders 55-56, and Box 5, Folder 58). Early efforts to improve the program, open new schools, and offer new courses are documented in YMCA: Board of Directors Reports, 1909-1915 (Box 4, Folder 55). FPS's proposal advocating the establishment of a formal college or university separate from the YMCA can be found in YMCA: Department of Education Reports, 1915-1917 (Box 4, Folder 59a).

Correspondence includes letters between FPS and Arthur S. Johnson, President of the Boston YMCA (1897-1929), regarding the establishment of Northeastern College and the Office of the President (Box 1, Folder 7). Also included is correspondence between FPS and James Loring Richards about fund-raising for Richards Hall (Box 1, Folders 8-9); a copy of a 1940 radio address given by Lt. Governor Horace T. Cahill, a 1918 graduate of the Evening Law School, praising FPS and the NU educational program (Box 1, Folder 10); and correspondence between Carl S. Ell, second president of NU, and FPS regarding NU's intention to name the new science building after FPS (Box 1, Folder 11).

Also included in the collection are three incomplete sets of NU committee minutes: Administrative, 1933-1935 (Box 1, Folder 2); Divisional, 1924-1928 (Box 1, Folder 3); and Regional, 1920-1936 (Box 1, Folders 4-6). The Administrative Committee directed the activities of the entire university and the individual colleges of NU. The minutes, 1933-35, document FPS and the NU administration's efforts to improve the university's programs and adapt to changing trends in education. The Regional Committee was established to oversee the operations of division and branch schools. The Divisional Committee, made up of NU administrators and divisional deans, addressed the issues facing the division schools. Topics covered in all three sets of minutes include admission standards, tuition, formulae for conferring degrees, course offerings, and degree requirements.

Fund-raising materials include a report prepared by the John Price Jones Corporation of New York, entitled "A Survey and Plan of Fund-raising for NU" (Box 2, Folders 15-16). This study was conducted to determine the feasibility of raising a substantial sum of money for new buildings and an endowment ($3,365,000 for immediate needs by December 1, 1933). It includes goals, a formal plan, and methods for raising the money. It also suggested using the slogan "A Practical College Education for the Boy of Moderate Means."

Of special interest is Speare's Professional Will and Codicil (Box 3, Folder 27). FPS prepared the document in 1933 and updated it in 1936. In it, FPS outlined for the Trustees his plan for NU should he die while in office before his successor had been chosen. Evaluations of the deans and university administrations such as Carl S. Ell, Everett A. Churchill, Galen D. Light, Charles H. Sampson, James Wallace Lees, and William C. White are included. FPS recommended that Carl S. Ell be named his successor.

FPS's writings on education, society, and the history of NU are included in the collection (Boxes 3-4, Folders 43-50). FPS's speeches, including commencement addresses and public lectures, can be found in Writings: Speeches, n.d., 1922-47 (Box 4, Folders 51-54). Researchers should note that information on NU's 25th Anniversary celebration can be found in YMCA: Events, 1898-1949; information on NU's 40th Anniversary can be found in Writings: Instruments of Social Progress, 40th Anniversary, 1938 (Box 3, Folder 43).


  • 1896-1951


Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

Frank Palmer Speare (FPS) was named the Educational Director of the Evening Institute of the Boston YMCA in 1896. Motivated by his desire to promote and develop educational opportunities for young men who would otherwise have few or none, FPS transformed the loosely organized school into an institute for higher learning that eventually became Northeastern University.

In his first year as Director, FPS added many new courses to the curriculum and instituted rules and regulations, stipulating among other requirements a minimum level of attendance and examinations. Seventeen instructors were listed in the first Institute announcement and FPS taught classes in algebra, arithmetic, and English. The following year, FPS proposed and the Board of Directors approved several changes, specifically the adoption of the outlines of a study that had been prepared by the International Committee of the YMCA. These changes included reducing class size, increasing the number of class sessions from one per week to two, and increasing the amount of tuition for each course from two dollars to five dollars. FPS also administered a series of courses in 1897-98 sponsored by the Lowell Institute but conducted by the Evening Institute. These courses included elementary and advanced electricity, and law.

Under his guidance and with the reluctant approval of the Board of Directors, the Evening School launched a program of legal study in 1898. The primary goal of the school was to prepare students for the Massachusetts Bar Exam. In 1904 the program was officially incorporated as the Evening Law School of the Boston YMCA with the power to grand the L.L.B. degree. FPS was the Dean of the Law School from its inception until 1920. In the years between 1903 and 1909, the Institute also opened the Automobile School, the Evening Polytech School, the School of Commerce and Finance, and the Cooperative Engineering School.

Continuing to grow, by 1915 the Evening Institute resembled a university. There were seven distinct schools and four colleges, each under the direction of a faculty member designated as dean; however, the Institute lacked a cohesive structure. Continued expansion was hampered by the budgetary limitations of the Boston YMCA. It was obvious to many, especially FPS, that the Evening School had outgrown the YMCA. FPS prepared a report for the Department of Education that recommended establishing an official college, headed by a President and administered separately from the Boston YCMA. The Board of Directors of the Boston YMCA approved the plan, and in 1916 they voted to incorporate the Evening Institute and rename it Northeastern College.

The incorporation of Northeastern College was the culmination of an ideal that FPS had cherished for many years. He had been responsible for the growth of the Evening Institute into separate schools, and it was due to this vision and efforts that the schools were finally joined into a single college. In recognition of his efforts, FPS was elected the college's first president and was inaugurated March 31, 1917. In 1922 Northeastern College became Northeastern University and the next year, largely through FPS's efforts, NU secured general degree granting power from the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

A pioneer in the field of education, FPS instituted the Northeastern Cooperative Plan. Still in existence, the plan permits students to combine their studies with relevant work experience. Also, between 1917 and 1920, FPS directed the opening of evening programs of adult education in other localities such as Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts; Providence, Rhode Island, and Bridgeport, Connecticut. These branch schools offered liberal arts, business, and law school courses leading to NU degrees. At the suggestion of FPS in 1919, the YMCA created the YMCA schools, a nationwide system of schools coordinated from the national headquarters of the Association in New York City. This system survived until the mid-1920s.

In the years following the separation of the financial accounts of NU and the YMCA, FPS focused his attention on fund-raising. The lack of classroom and office space had always been a problem for the school, and FPS felt that NU needed to establish an endowment to ensure the longevity of the institution. Funds for the first building were raised in a campaign headed by James Loring Richards. A 1932 NU Honorary Doctor of Laws recipient, he was named to the Board of Trustees in 1935. Working closely with FPS, Richards secured funding from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the University. To honor his hard work and success, the University's first building was named for him. Ground was broken for Richards Hall on September 29, 1937, and the cornerstone was laid in November.

In October 1939, at the age of 70, FPS announced his resignation effective June 30, 1940. Upon retirement, he was appointed President Emeritus of NU. He remained associated with NU as a Trustees and Corporation member until his death in 1954.


1.60 cubic feet (5 containers)




Frank Palmer Speare (FPS) was named the Educational Director of the Evening Institute of the Boston YMCA in 1896. He transformed the loosely organized school into an institute for higher learning that eventually became Northeastern University (NU). He oversaw the launching of several of NU's early schools: the evening law school, the now-defunct automobile school, the evening polytechnic schools, the school of commerce and finance, and the co-operative engineering school. In 1916 the Evening Institute was incorporated and renamed Northeastern College. FPS was elected the college's first president and was inaugurated on March 31, 1917. FPS retired on June 30, 1940 and was appointed President Emeritus. He remained associated with NU as a Trustee and Corporation member until his death in 1954.


The records document Frank Palmer Speare's tenure as Educational Director of the Evening Institute of the Boston Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and President and President Emeritus of Northeastern University (NU). Included are reports and correspondence documenting the Evening Institute of the YMCA and its connection with NU, correspondence relating to Richards Hall and Science Hall, NU committee minutes, fund-raising reports, and FPS's writings, speeches, and professional will.

System of Arrangement:

Arranged in one alphabetical sequence.

Physical Location

Finding aid for the Office of the President (Speare) Records
Finding aid prepared by Ilona Kirilova and Patricia Mulderry
April 1995
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Snell Library
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US