Biography of Walter F. Downey, Professor of Education

Walter F. Downey
Emmanuel College Professor of Education (1926-1939)

Sr. Anne Cyril Delaney, SND, 1976-1977

Walter F. Downey was born circa 1886 to Irish immigrants and he grew up the Town of North Brookfield, Massachusetts with his eight (8) siblings where he aimed to become an industrial chemist. Mr. Downey earned his degree from Amherst College before joining the teaching staff at Albion New York High School where he learned his true passion was education. In 1910, Walter F. Downey joined the Boston English High School faculty as a teacher in mathematics and football coach. After receiving his Master of Education degree (1921) from Harvard University, he was appointed headmaster of English High School before joining the Emmanuel College faculty in 1927 in the Education Department.

In 1939, Walter F. Downey was appointed the Commissioner of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where he warned society not to fragment into its various constituency, but rather, embrace the differences in education and the larger society. During his time as Commissioner, Mr. Downey aware of the problems of unemployment and the cost of education supported vocational guidance and state loans for college. In 1943, he step down as the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education to again assume the role of headmaster of Boston English High School because, in his own words, “my boys [English High students and alumni] need me.” He served in that position until his retirement in 1954. In his career he was supported by his wife Josephine (Fleming) Downey and their two children James W.F. Downey and Katherine (Downey) Burke. Walter F. Downey died in January 1965.