Building; some equipment still showed charred marks of fire.
Dr. Speas was born in Yadkin County on December 1, 1885. He
received his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest in 1907 and
completed work for a master's at Johns Hopkins University in 1913
and for a doctorate at Cornell in 1927. A faculty resolution adopted
March 13, 1961, shortly after Dr. Speas died, recalled that he
loved beauty, whether he found it in the vocal and instrumental music of the
members of his devoted and talented family, in the magnificent "mums"
which he raised in his flower garden, or in what he felt to be the created
order of God's universe.
He combined to a remarkable degree that happy faculty of teacher and
scholar. While serving with distinction as president of the North Carolina
Academy of Science in 1938, he was teaching physics to both beginning and
senior students with a contagious enthusiasm and genuine joy that continued
through the last class he met.
His students dearly loved Speas, the more so because of a number
of idiosyncrasies, including the short conversations he sometimes held
with himself. One story that circulated for generations involved an
introductory class in the early forties which Speas had challenged to
come up with a definition of electricity. No one volunteered, and
Speas coaxed gently, "You read about it in your text for today. What
is electricity?"
Finally one boy raised his hand tentatively and said, "Dr. Speas, I
read that chapter, and I knew what electricity was last night. But when
I woke up this morning I had forgotten."
Dr. Speas looked at him and sadly shook his head. "Such a trag-
edy," he said. "Here is the only man in history who ever knew what
electricity is, and he's forgotten."
As World War II proceeded Dr. Speas was teaching with only one
assistant, Dr. Herman M. Parker, who had joined the faculty in 1941.
Parker took a leave of absence in the fall of 1944 to join a Federal
Aeronautics Agency in Newport News, Virginia. He returned after
two years and remained at Wake Forest until 1953. Briefly from 1951
to 1952 Thomas H. Dimmock served as an instructor, giving Speas a
three-man staff, and at that time a course in nuclear physics was
added to the curriculum. On September 1, 1952, Professor Emeritus
James L. Lake died. He had guided the department since it became a
separate discipline in 1889 until 1932.
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