This document is part of the Festschrift in Honor of Charles Speel, edited by Thomas J. Sienkewicz and James E. Betts and published by Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois in 1997. The Table of Contents for this volume can be accessed here. If you have any questions, you may contact Tom Sienkewicz at

Charles Jarvis Speel II

Charles Jarvis Speel II and his twin brother Duncan were born on November 22, 1916 in Albany, New York. The youngest of four sons born to John Whitefield Speel, a Presbyterian minister, and Clara Wilhemina McClatchey, Charles was raised in New England. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University in 1939 and was employed as a machinery designer and sub-foreman by the Brown E. Sharpe Mfg. Co. of Providence, Rhode Island. In 1942 he married Emma Janis Closson, a school teacher from Cranston, Rhode Island.

During World War II Charles served in the United States Navy, Aircorps. He was assigned as an instructor for aircraft engine overhaul and maintenance and also designed some aircraft equipment.

Following the war he was camp director for the Greater Providence YMCA in the summers of 1947 and 1948, while attending Harvard University, Divinity School, as a Williams Scholar and Hopkins Fellow. He earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology in 1949, a Masters of Sacred Theology in 1950, and a Ph.D. degree from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1956 with a dissertation entitled "An Inquiry Into Communal Authority in the Ancient Church with Particular Emphasis upon the Laity."

Following graduation Charles was ordained and installed as pastor of the First United Presbyterian Church of Cranston, Rhode Island, from which he was invited by President James Harper Grier to join the faculty of Monmouth College in 1951. Charles spent most of his career as teacher and scholar at Monmouth College, where he became the John Young Professor of Bible until his retirement in 1986. With his wife and children, he has summered on Cape Cod in Bass River, Massachusetts since 1951.

Over the years Charles has served Monmouth College in a variety of capacities. As a teacher his course on the Archaeology of the Bible was popular for decades. He was the Danforth, Rockefeller, Woodrow Wilson and Rhodes Scholarship representative for Monmouth College, ILLOWA Higher Education Consortium Representative, and chair of the 1961 Liberal Arts Festival Committee at Monmouth College. He served as faculty advisor to the YMCA between 1951 and 1959; faculty advisor to the Gospel Team from 1951 to 1958; advisor to Campus Christian Fellowship from 1951 to 1958, and as a member of the Monmouth College Alumni Board. As faculty advisor to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity between 1958 and 1964, Charles successfully counseled the chapter in its efforts to desegregate the fraternity at the national level.

Charles has also been a member of a wide number of professional organizations, including the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Society of Church History, American Friends of the Middle East, the American Association of Middle East Scholars, the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, the Presbyterian Historical Society, the American Association of University Professors, and the Archaeological Institute of America. He has held offices in many of these societies, including President, Vice President, Secretary, and Program Chair of the Midwest Section of the American Academy of Religion; the Vice-President and member of the Board of Directors of the Presbyterian Historical Society and chair of the publications and editorial committee; twice president and twice secretary of the Monmouth College chapter of AAUP; and member of the membership committee of the American Society of Church History.

Charles has also been active in many church and academic groups in the United States and around the world. He has been a convocation speaker at Sweet Briar College in Virginia; a member of the Education Department of Great Rivers Presbytery; moderator of Little-Cedar and Sugar Tree Grove Churches in Warren County, Illinois; a member of the Board of Directors of Harvard Divinity School Alumni Association; a delegate to a UNESCO conference on Africa; and a delegate to the Post Second Vatican Council in Rome held at the University of Notre Dame. He has served as Adjunct Professor for San Francisco Theological Seminary, the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the McCormick Theological Seminary.

In 1964 he was invited as Visiting Professor of Church History and of Islamics to the United Theological College in Bangalore, India, where he, his wife, and daughter lived in 1964-1965. In 1975-1976 he was Director of the Florence Program of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest in Florence, Italy, where he taught Church History. With his wife he has traveled extensively in the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Canada. On their trip back from India in 1965, they toured the Holy Land and Egypt.

He has supplied many churches, primarily conducting Sunday worship services, in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Illinois, and Iowa. He is a faithful member of the congregation of Faith Presbyterian Church in Monmouth, Illinois, and of the South Dennis Congregationalist Church in South Dennis, Massachusetts. He and Emma Janis have two daughters, Janis Avery Speel Niblett of Omemee, Ontario, and Clara W. Speel Van de Water of Alexandria, Virginia. They also have four grand-daughters.

Since his retirement in 1986, Charles has been working on a history of Presbyterian colleges and universities in the United States.

Note: Charles J. Speel died on October 10, 2000. For a complete obituary and more information on the life and career of Charles Speel, go to

Speel Festschrift Table of Contents

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