Muskingum News

In the News

Muskingum University Celebrates the Life of President Emeritus Samuel W. Speck, Jr. ’59
Sam Speck

With our deepest respect and greatest admiration, Muskingum University celebrates the life of President Emeritus Samuel W. Speck, Jr. ’59.  Dr. Speck passed away on March 1, 2023, at the age of 86.

“President Emeritus Sam Speck had a profound impact on Muskingum University, the region, and the nation. His journey at Muskingum began as a student, brought him back as a professor, and ultimately led to his service as a transformational president from 1987-1999,” said Muskingum President Susan S. Hasseler. “His advocacy for innovation, affordability and access and his deep commitment to public service and environmental sustainability shaped the Muskingum of today.”

Dr. Speck’s leadership talent was evident from his days as a Muskingum student, when he served as Student Senate President and earned his bachelor’s degree in political science, where he graduated summa cum laude. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees in Political Science from Harvard University and attended the University of Zimbabwe as a Rotary Foundation Fellow.

He joined the Muskingum faculty in 1964, blending his teaching career with the practice of politics. He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives for the 95th District, serving from 1971-1976. During that time, he was the primary author for the Ohio Strip Mine Reclamation act of 1971, which allowed, in part, for the eventual revitalization of land for The Wilds, an exotic and endangered species wildlife preserve.

The federal Surface Mining Control Act of 1977 was modeled after his Ohio Strip Mine Reclamation Act, and signed into law by U.S. President Jimmy Carter, with Dr. Speck attending the Rose Garden ceremony. After serving two terms as Ohio State Senator for the 20th District from 1976-1984, Dr. Speck became Associate Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

President Emeritus Speck led the University from 1987 through 1999, before becoming Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Among the many accomplishments of his Muskingum presidency, Dr. Speck created the Conservation Science program, emphasized the importance of civic and political awareness and service to others as key educational components, and implemented a nationally recognized tuition repricing strategy that increased affordability and enrollment.

He and his wife Sharon Anderson Speck ’60 (1938-2017) graciously welcomed many students, faculty and staff, and alumni to their home while serving Muskingum.

During his time at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, as chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors’ Water Management Working Group, he led development of the Great Lakes Annex Agreement and Compact to provide for the management of withdrawals of water from the Great Lakes basin. In 2004, he was one of three state officials in the U.S. to receive the National Governors Association’s annual award for Distinguished Service in State Government.

Dr. Speck’s countless contributions to Ohio and the region include serving as a founding member of the 16-county Eastern Ohio Development Alliance, the 32-county Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth, and the 8-state and 2-Canadian province Great Lakes Compact Council for sustainable water resources. Sam also was a member or held leadership roles in the International Center for the Preservation of Wildlife (the Wilds), the Great Lakes Commission, Council of Great Lakes Governors Water Management Working Group, the Ohio Water Resources Council, the Nature Conservancy Board of Directors for Ohio, and the Ohio to Erie Trail Board of Directors.

“Those who had the pleasure of getting to know Sam personally, as I did, also appreciated his warmth, humor, and wisdom. Since his passing, I have received communications from his classmates, former students, and those who had the privilege of serving with him in his many leadership roles. All speak to his exceptional integrity, strategic thinking, and ability to envision a better world.

The Muskingum community extends its deepest sympathy to the Speck family.

Back to top