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Spencer, Francis A. (Francis Auten), 1913-2001



  • Existence: 1913 - 2001

Frank A. (Francis Auten) Spencer was born July 7, 1913, in Evanston, Illinois, to Frank E. and Mildred Auten Spencer. Following in his father's footsteps, Spencer attended Northwestern University. He was an involved student and a cheerleader at Northwestern sporting events. Spencer took his bachelor of science degree in economics in 1936. An aviation enthusiast, he earned his pilot's license while a student at Northwestern. Spencer joined NU's faculty in 1973 and retired in 1983.

Spencer continued his formal education at Princeton University where he earned his M.A. degree in 1938 in economics. Princeton awarded him a doctoral degree, also in economics, in 1941. While a graduate student, Spencer served on the staff of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. There he assisted in the production of the publication, Air Mail Payment and the Government. In 1942, he worked as an economist for the Civil Aeronautics Board.

Spencer was a pilot with the U.S. Army Air Transport Command during World War II. He flew military transports to Europe and North Africa and DC-10s to Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand. He was honorably discharged from the military on July 27, 1944.

Spencer's career as an aviator continued after the war. After a brief stint with Trans World Airlines, Spencer worked as a commercial pilot for American Airlines from 1944 to 1973. While at American he involved himself in the work of pilots' unions. He served as a negotiator for the Air Line Pilots Association for fourteen years. Thereafter, he was National Secretary of the same union for eight years. Later, he was appointed Chief Air Line Pilots Association Economic Witness before the Presidential Emergency Board. He was also chairman of the Allied Pilots Association's Grievance Committee from 1963 to 1973.

In 1973, after his sixtieth birthday, Spencer was forced into retirement from his work as a pilot. He had attempted to train for a flight officer's position, as those occupying that job often were allowed to work until age sixty-five. American ignored his requests for training, claiming that the Federal Aviation Administration required all flight crew to retire at age sixty. Spencer charged the company with age discrimination. In 1976, three years after filing his initial grievance, Spencer lost his case. He became a consultant for the Allied Pilots Association in 1974.

Spencer joined the faculty of Northwestern University in 1973 with a joint appointment as a lecturer in transportation policy and management in the Graduate School of Management and the Transportation Center. He became an assistant to the director of the Transportation Center in 1974 and an associate professor of policy and environment in 1975. Northwestern named Spencer emeritus professor upon his retirement in 1983.

Spencer's experience with academia, the military, and commercial aviation qualified him to work as a consultant for a wide range of groups including the National Mediation Board, NASA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, System Designs Concepts, McKinsey and Company, Trans Systems Corporation, Transtar Pilots Association, Ansett Airlines, United Airlines, the J. L. Ritchie Company, and Forecast Consulting Group.

Spencer published one book and over thirty articles and research reports on airline labor relations and airline deregulation. Spencer co-wrote many of these articles with Frank Cassell, his friend and colleague at the Transportation Center.

Spencer was active in efforts to upgrade Transportation Center facilities, worked to raise funds, and made significant personal gifts toward the construction of a new building, Chambers Hall, completed in 1999. In recognition of his contributions, the Frank A. Spencer conference room bears his name. Spencer's generous financial gifts also helped to establish an endowed professorship, the William A. Patterson Distinguished Chair in Transportation.

Spencer also lobbied to have the Northwestern Transportation Library moved from its basement location when the University Library was restructured in the mid-1990's. His arguments that the library was the largest of its kind in the United States helped win it the fifth-floor location it now occupies.

In recognition of his generosity to Northwestern, the University named Spencer and his wife members of its Henry Wade Rogers Society in 1987. The Northwestern Alumni Association presented Spencer with its Service Award in 1997.

In 1996 the Northwestern University Transportation Center published Spencer's history, The Way it Was: Flight Crews.

Frank A. Spencer died of heart failure on May 8, 2001, leaving behind his second wife Catherine. Spencer's first wife, Geraldine Whitrock Spencer, died February 2, 1984.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Frank A. Spencer (1913-2001) Papers

Identifier: 24/5
Abstract The Frank A. Spencer papers fill eleven and one-half boxes and span the years 1941 to 1998. They are divided into biographical files, correspondence, course files, Airline Pilots Association and American Pilots Association files, publications files, research files, speech files, and transportation conference materials.