Francis Keppel

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Francis Keppel
United States Commissioner of Education
In office
December 10, 1962 – May 21, 1965
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon Johnson
Preceded by Sterling McMurrin
Succeeded by Harold Howe
Personal details
Born (1916-04-16)April 16, 1916
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died February 19, 1990(1990-02-19) (aged 73)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Alma mater Harvard University

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.

The Keppel award for the timely and accurate reporting of public library data to the Institute of Museum and Library Services was named in his honor.[1][2]

Keppel was featured on the cover of TIME magazine on October 15, 1965.[3]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Keppel Award Presented for Public Library Data". State Library and Archives of Florida. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved October 9, 2013. 
  2. ^ WJIL Project Team. "State Library Wins Keppel Award". Illinois State Library. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  3. ^ "TIME Magazine Cover". Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Sterling McMurrin
United States Commissioner of Education
Succeeded by
Harold Howe
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Fidel Castro
Cover of Time Magazine
15 October 1965
Succeeded by
Vietnam War