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Neil V. Sullivan

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Meredith, New Hampshire - Dr. Neil V Sullivan, educator and civil rights advocate died yesterday at his home in Meredith, NH. Dr. Sullivan was 90.

Dr. Sullivan began his career as an educator after graduating from Keene Normal School, Keene NH, in 1936. He would later receive his BS from Fitchburg State, a Master’s from Columbia, and his Doctorate from Harvard.

Dr. Sullivan’s career in education was quickly interrupted by outbreak of World War II. He served as a communications officer on destroyers throughout the war, first in the North Atlantic, then later in the Mediterranean and finally, in the Pacific.

Returning to New England in 1946, Sullivan restarted his career. During the 1950’s, he was a superintendent of schools in various districts in Maine and New York where he established the first non-graded system in the eastern United States.

In 1963, Dr. Sullivan was asked by President Kennedy to establish the Prince Edward County Free Schools in Farmville, VA. Working with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Sullivan established a countywide school system that provided education for the county’s African-American children. Four years earlier, Prince Edward County had closed its public schools in response to the US Supreme Court’s Brown vs. the Board. White children attended a system of church supported schools, while the African-American children had no schools of any sort available to them. President Kennedy spoke to this issue and it was determined that all

American children would have access to a free public education. While the Justice Department carried the case to the Supreme Court, Kennedy insisted that free public education be reestablished in the County. Dr. Sullivan responded to the President’s request and during the summer of 1963 set up the Prince Edward County Free Schools. This system operated for more than a year, until the US Supreme Court ordered Prince Edward County to provide free public education for all children.

With public education reestablished in Virginia, Dr. Sullivan moved on to Berkeley, CA. Here he was the principal architect of the “Berkeley Plan”. Under this city-wide initiative, Berkeley became the first city of more than 100,000, to fully integrate its public schools, K through 12.

During the 1968 presidential campaign, Dr. Sullivan was a key advisor to Robert Kennedy on education. In addition, he assisted with Kennedy’s campaign efforts in the California Primary.

In 1969, Dr. Sullivan returned to New England as the State Commissioner of Education for the State of Massachusetts. In this position, he played an important role in the efforts to bring equal educational opportunities in the cities of Boston and New Bedford.

Throughout his career, in addition to his commitment to equality in education, Sullivan was a major innovator. As State Commissioner, he created the Youth Advisory Council, which lead to a law providing for the inclusion of a student on the State Board of Education. Early in his career, he introduced the teaching of foreign language at the primary school level.

In 1972, Sullivan returned to California as the Chairman of the Education Department at Long Beach State University. In this role he trained future school administrators. He continued to write and lecture on educational policy. Dr. Sullivan retired from teaching in 1984. In 1997, he returned to his native New Hampshire.

Background Information:
Born…Manchester, New Hampshire, 1914

Teaching Certificate…Keene Normal School…1936
BS…Fitchburg State…1939

Honorary Doctorates:
University of New Hampshire
Boston University
Massachusetts State University

President Johnson’s US Civil Rights
Commission…Advisory Committee
US Emergency Committee for Gun Control
Educational Development Program for the Navaho Nation
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Executive Council, Harvard Graduate School of
Member of the Corporation, Massachusetts Institute of
Trustee, University of Massachusetts
Trustee, Boston Museum of Fine Art
Vice Chairman, White House Conference on Children
National Advisory Panel, Title I, Elementary and
Secondary Education Act
Governor’s Task Force on the Status of Women

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Before I saw Neil Sullivan’s book, I was indeed
discouraged about school integration….I came to
Berkeley and saw my friend Dr. Sullivan, I heard his
words…and hope returned to my soul.”

Senator Robert F Kennedy:
“If we don’t follow what Mr. Sullivan has said…that
is, to have people of different colors and religions
going to school together… we will never have any
possibility of achieving a relationship among the
various ethnic groups.”


Dr. Sullivan wrote three books on his experiences in
education. He co-wrote several others. In addition,
he published numerous articles on education,
leadership, and civil rights.

Personal Information:

Neil is survived by his two sons, Roger of Marblehead,
MA, and Michael of Moultonborough, NH. He was married
for more than 50 years to the late Martha Ross of
Derry, NH.
Dr. Sullivan has 3 grandchildren and 4 great

Neil Sullivan was a life long Boston Red Sox fan.
Thanks to the 04 Sox for giving a priceless gift….4
straight against the Yankees and the World

Prepared by Michael M. Sullivan
August 7, 2005

Wilkinson-Beane Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 164
Pleasant St Laconia, NH 03246 is in charge of the

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