Francis Keppel (April 16, 1916 – February 19, 1990) was an American educator. As U.S. Commissioner of Education (1962–1965) he was instrumental in developing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and in overseeing enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the schools. In 1966, he became head of the General Learning Corporation. Keppel later served on the New York City Board of Higher Education (1967–1971) and on Harvard’s Board of Overseers (1967–73). In 1974 he became founding chairman of the Lincoln Center Institute and director of the education policy program at the Aspen Institute.
Keppel was born in New York City and attended the Groton School in Massachusetts. He entered Harvard University in 1934 where he received a bachelor’s degree in English literature. While studying at Harvard, Keppel dabbled in sculpture. After graduation, he pursued art studies at the American Academy in Rome. He returned to the States after a year and was named assistant dean of freshmen at Harvard University.
During World War II, Keppel was secretary of the Joint Army-Navy Committee on Welfare and Recreation in Washington, D.C. He later entered the U.S. Army’s Information and Education Division. Following the war, Keppel returned to Harvard as assistant to the provost. James Bryant Conant, then president of Harvard, was so impressed with Keppel’s enthusiasm and character attributes that he named Keppel the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1948.
During his fourteen years as dean, the School of Education more than quadrupled in size, applications increased tenfold, and the endowment swelled to over $9 million. Keppel focused on improving the quality of teaching, testing reform ideas, and suggesting innovations for practice. He revitalized the Master of Arts in Teaching and introduced a Master of Arts for Elementary Teachers. He also created Harvard’s School and University Program for Research and Development. He promoted experimentation in team teaching, programmed learning, curricular reform, and the use and development of educational television. These practices set Harvard apart from other educational schools. Keppel was widely respected as a national leader and served on numerous committees, task forces, and councils during his tenure.
He also is credited with influencing the passage of the Higher Education Facilities Act, the Manpower Development and Training Act, and the Library Services Act. When President Lyndon B. Johnson elevated the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to a cabinet-level office in 1965, Keppel became the assistant secretary of education.
After serving the federal government, Keppel became chief executive officer of the General Learning Corporation, a joint venture between General Electric and Time Inc.. He later served as vice chair of the New York City Board of Higher Education and director of the Aspen Institute. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1977, Keppel returned to Harvard University as a senior lecturer where he continued teaching until his death.
Sterling M. McMurrin
|United States Commissioner of Education
1962 – 1965
Harold Howe II