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Jackson E. Spears (1906-2003)

Jackson E. Spears served as a member of New York Medical College’s Board of Trustees for sixty years, from 1943 to 2003.

Loyal, steadfast, sharp-witted, selfless, practical, wise, and relentless in his promotion of the College and its mission, Mr. Spears was a member of virtually every board committee during his tenure, serving as trustee, then as vice chairman of the Board from 1956 to 1964 and as chairman from 1965 to 1970, and on two separate occasions as acting president of the College. 

Jackson Spears joined the Board of Trustees in 1943 when the College was located in New York City as New York Medical College-Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospitals. In the pivotal years of the 1960s, Mr. Spears was instrumental in guiding the College through times of reorganization and change. He played leadership roles in separating the positions of president and dean of the School of Medicine, working with the first faculty of the NYMC Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences to establish governance of the school, and in the decisions to relocate the College from New York City to Valhalla and affiliate with the Archdiocese of New York.

The William Cullen Bryant Medal, the College's highest honor, was bestowed on Mr. Spears in 1983, the first year it was awarded. Ten years later, he received three more honors--the Distinguished Service Medal at Winter Convocation and an honorary Doctor of Science degree at commencement and the Terence Cardinal Cooke Award for Distinguished Service in Health Care. The citation read, "A wonderful man who has given unselfishly of himself to our college for half a century. A man of sharp practical wisdom...Through the years, he has led New York Medical College as it grew in size and stature."

Born in Dallas, Texas, on October 19, 1906, Mr. Spears graduated from Southern Methodist University, where he was elected to Tau Kappa Alpha, an honorary scholarship and debating fraternity. He went on to pursue graduate studies at Harvard Law School before starting a business career with Stone and Webster, a New York City engineering and public holding company. Five years later he entered the textile industry, serving as vice president of E. Gerli & Co., National Mallinson Fabrics Corporation and Burlington Industries, from which he retired in 1961.

In retirement, Mr. Spears remained very active in numerous civic functions in New York and Connecticut. Most prominent was his service on the boards of St. Joseph's Medical Center and Stamford Hospital in Stamford, St. Joseph's Manor in Trumbull, the Choate School Development Fund, the Darien Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Foreign Policy Association, the American Cancer Society of New York City and the Child Guidance Center of Greater Stamford. He received an award for distinguished service in the field of human relations from the National Conference of Christian and Jews [today known as the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ)] in New York City.

Mr. Spears' other honors include receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., in 1989, the Benemerenti Medal from the Holy See and becoming a Knight of the Sovereign Order of Malta. In 1992 Pope John Paul II made him a Knight of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. 

A resident of New Canaan, Conn., Mr. Spears' last honor came in 2000 when the College created the Jackson E. Spears Community Service Award, bestowed for the first time at the College's annual dinner to medical correspondent Max Gomez, Ph.D. The Award is bestowed upon those individuals and organizations that have demonstrated exceptional service and commitment to our communities.

The College continues to mourn the loss of this valuable member of our community, who passed away on July 14, 2003, at the age of 96. Mr. Spears and his wife, Evelyn Helen Gerli, had three sons, William G. Spears, Jackson E. Spears Jr. and Joseph G. Spears.