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The Man Behind Palmer House

Posted Monday, July 15, 2013 by Haverford School Alumni News, April 1949

The following is transcribed from the Haverford School Alumni News, April 1949. The original framed tribute hangs in Palmer House, a testimony to the impact Arthur Walden Palmer contributed to Haverford’s early development of athletics - football specifcally, and the complete boy generally.

Palmer House stands today as the physical reminder for our alumni and the entire Haverford community to honor a man and his devoted spirit for football, athletics, the school and the development of boys into young men of great strength and character.

Arthur W. Palmer (1881-1948)

Haverford Master 1907-1947

Mr. Palmer was born in Dexter, Maine in 1881. His preparation for college was at Maine Wesleyan Seminary, where he played on the baseball and football teams for three years, captaining the football team which held the State Championship his graduating year. He then entered Colby College, Class of 1906, where he played football for four years, in the last of which he was captain. He was on the baseball team three years, in the last of which it won the State Collegiate championship. He also won his letter in basketball; and in tennis was a doubles Maine collegiate champion.

He was one of the two men at Colby who 
have won four major letters in the same year. The other was his friend and college mate, Jack Coombs, who later pitched on world championship teams of the Philadelphia Athletics.

Mr. Palmer first taught for a year after college at the Cloyne 
House School, Newport, Rhode Island. Then he came to Haverford to teach English subjects in the First Form and to help with the coaching of our teams. He continued his teaching until his retirement in 1947- forty consecutive years.

For most of that time he was Form Master of the First Form. His intuitive understanding of the natures of young
boys and his sympathetic attitude toward their changing moods made him a great favorite with them.
Mr. Palmer’s experience and high standards of sportsmanship quickly led to his appointment as Head Coach in
football and Director of Athletics in 1910, in which capacity he served for more than a decade.

Meantime he had 
begun to be known as an enthusiastic and popular golf player, scoring consistently in the high 70’s or low 80’s. Upon his arrival at Haverford, Mr. Palmer’s services began to be sought as a football offcial, and he was soon in demand for important college games. During the 35 consecutive seasons in which he participated, he came to be known as the outstanding Field Judge for the Ivy League games and other college contests of that class.

Mr. Palmer’s knowledge of football was so thorough and the confidence in him and regard for him by leaders in
that field so great, that in 1923 he was chosen by the Rules Committee as one of four men who rewrote the rules of
the game. In a service of 12 consecutive years as a member of the Editorial Committee, he assisted in the
progressive revision and improvement of the rules resulting in the code which we have today (1949).

Also in 1923 
he was elected a Director and Secretary-Treasurer of the newly organized Eastern Association of Football Officials, which has developed the present high standards of personnel, officials and conduct of games.

An ardent lover of the out-of-doors, it was inevitable that Mr. Palmer should be interested in summer camps and
similar projects. He was first a counselor at Camp Cobennec; then took groups of boys on trips on horseback in
British Columbia and Wyoming for several summers. He became such an expert woodsman that he was a licensed
guide for the State of Maine.

In 1907 he, as Director, with two partners, established Camp Allagash on Moosehead 
Lake, Maine, where hundreds of Haverford boys have had unforgettable experiences in out-of-door life and in true

In August 1908, Mr. Palmer and Miss Alice Owen were married in Auburn, Maine. Thereafter they attended Bryn
Mawr Presbyterian Church. Their daughters married Haverford alumni. Frances married Richard C. Fleck ’25; Jane
married George B. Barr ’20 (Haverford French Master 1924-1925). Son Arthur Walden Palmer, Jr. ’38 teaches in the
Cranbrook School, Michigan.

The Class of 1924 published their yearbook with the following dedication, which may stand as the School’s
estimate of the capable, modest, handsome, winsome master of the First Form, now on Final Leave:

“To Arthur Walden Palmer: In appreciation of his efforts to broaden our minds by his instruction, to build our bodies through the medium of athletics, and to guide us to the right by his example.”

He died on February 6, 1948 as a result of a stroke.

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