Francis Trow Spaulding was appointed dean in 1940 by President James Bryant Conant. Spaulding received the degree of A.B. from Harvard College in 1916 and his Ed.M. in 1921 and Ed.D. in 1926 from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In 1926, he also earned an A.M. degree from Columbia University. Appointed as an instructor in education at HGSE in 1924, Spaulding began a 21-year association with his alma mater as a professor and administrator. He quickly became an assistant professor in 1926 with promotions following to associate professor in 1929 and full professorship in 1936. In 1939, Spaulding became associate dean and assumed responsibilities as dean in the following year.
Spaulding inherited a Harvard faculty in a precarious financial state. He worked to lessen those burdens, generating more operating income by increasing the number of students enrolled at HGSE. Additionally, Spaulding sought to make the School’s research faculty more visible, fostered cooperative efforts within Harvard University, and shifted some of the School’s focus from teacher preparation to administrative training. More emphasis was also placed on research related to education and the social sciences. With the passage of the Selective Service Act in 1940, HGSE faced the prospect of a drastic student shortage in the near future. Though the School earned income by offering students a number of attractive inducements (e.g. part-time enrollment and reducing the number of credits required for the Ed.M.), it was not enough. Many of the new initiatives had to be eliminated. Most part-time and term appointments were cut from the faculty. Certain tenured faculty members were asked to consider early retirement or unpaid leaves of absence in the name of wartime patriotism. Spaulding himself took a leave of absence in early 1942 to serve as a colonel in the Army’s Information and Education Division. Though his official appointment lasted until November 1945, Spaulding’s active service as dean lasted all of three semesters. Dean Francis Keppel would later remark that Spaulding’s few active years as dean still guided the direction of HGSE’s management into the early 1950s.
After the war, on October 17, 1946, Spaulding became commissioner of education and president of the University of the State of New York. He served in that position until his sudden and unexpected death in 1950.
About the Artist: Frank C. Bensing, American, 1893–1983
Frank C. Bensing was commissioned by the Harvard Graduate School of Education to paint a portrait of Dean Francis Trow Spaulding in 1954. The work was done posthumously by the artist. In fact, Bensing copied this portrait from his previously completed portrait of Spaulding (1951) commissioned by the State of New York and hung in the State Education Building in Albany. The work for the State of New York was also completed after Spaulding’s death. On June 16, 1955 (commencement day), the portrait was presented to Dean Francis Keppel by a group of alumni, friends, and associates of Spaulding. The painting was originally hung in the Dean’s Office in Lawrence Hall.
Bensing was an illustrator and painter based in New York City and Woodstock, New York. His primary medium was oil paint but he was also known to use pastels and watercolors. He was born in Chicago and trained at the Art Institute of Chicago for seven years. He studied under De Forrest Schook, Wellington Reynolds, Charles Schroeder, and Walter Biggs. Amazingly, Bensing was blind in one eye after a childhood bout of scarlet fever. He was known primarily as a cover and story illustrator for magazines early in his career. These publications included Coronet, Country Gentleman, McCall’s, Pictorial Review, Redbook, and The Saturday Evening Post. Bensing also produced art for print-based advertisements.
His illustrations helped market Coca-Cola, Karo Syrup, Post Toasties, and other products. Additionally, Bensing created movie posters for RKO studios. Later, his painting activities became more centered on portraiture. His public commissions included subjects at Bryn Mawr College, Columbia University, Notre Dame University, and the University of Miami. He was also commissioned to paint the portrait of Joseph P. Kennedy. Bensing painted landscapes for his own enjoyment. He had exhibitions of his oil and watercolor paintings at the National Academy of Design, Allied Artists of America, Salmagundi Club, and American Watercolor Society. Bensing was a member of the Artists Fellowship, Artists Guild, Allied Artists of America, Dutch Treat Club, Salmagundi Club, and Society of American Illustrators.
He continued to paint until age 88 and passed away at 90 years of age.