William T. Speck
William T. Speck

With deep sadness, the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) notes the passing of MBL Trustee and former MBL Director and Chief Executive Officer William T. Speck, M.D., on March 30, 2024, in New York, N.Y. 

A distinguished pediatrician, biomedical researcher, and leader of some of the nation’s most esteemed research and teaching hospitals, Speck directed the MBL from 2001 to 2006 and served on the MBL Board of Trustees from 2014 to the present and from 1997-2000. He was a former member of the MBL Society and an active member of the MBL’s summer research community for many years. The MBL flag will be lowered in his memory.

Most recently, Speck was Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Among his major career accomplishments, Speck served as President and CEO of Presbyterian Hospital in New York from 1992-1999, during which time he orchestrated its merger with New York Hospital, creating the largest academic healthcare delivery system in the United States.

Speck first came to the MBL in 1975 to conduct research on the effects of drugs and environmental pollutants on developing embryos, research he pursued at the MBL for more than two decades. He was a key volunteer in the Laboratory’s first comprehensive, public fundraising campaign, the $41M Discovery Campaign in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and served as chair of the MBL’s Development Committee. In August 2000, Speck joined the staff of the MBL as its Interim Director and CEO, and in April 2001 he was named MBL Director and CEO, holding this position through 2006. Through his visionary leadership and management skills, the Laboratory successfully completed its capital campaign, increased its endowment, and generated significant profits.

Speck also played a critical role in modernizing the governance of the MBL, expanding the impact of full-time research, and pioneering university partnerships. During his tenure as MBL Director and CEO, Speck established a joint Ph.D. program with Brown University, which allowed Brown graduate students to conduct cutting-edge doctoral research at MBL in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Through this initiative, Speck and former MBL Board Chairman John W. Rowe helped introduce the MBL to Robert J. Zimmer, then Provost at Brown University and later President at the University of Chicago. The relationship between Speck and Zimmer would be instrumental in seeding the affiliation between the MBL and the University of Chicago in 2013. Throughout his long affiliation with the MBL, Speck built on the Laboratory’s traditions to ensure relevance and impact in a world of biological research that was rapidly transforming. In the 2000s, the family and friends of Speck generously provided funding to the MBL to construct an auditorium in the Rowe Building, which was dedicated as Speck Auditorium.

Born in Detroit, Mich., Speck received his B.A. from Rutgers University and his M.D. from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. After completing his residency and fellowship training at Columbia University, he obtained a joint appointment in the Departments of Pediatrics and Microbiology. After three years he moved to the Department of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University, where he directed the Division of Infectious Diseases and subsequently served as Professor and later Chairman and Director of the Department of Pediatrics. In addition, in 1982 he was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, an appointment he held for ten years.

In 1992, Speck moved to New York to become the President and CEO of the Presbyterian Hospital, a position he held until 1999, when the hospital merged with New York Hospital and its regional healthcare system. Following the merger, Speck worked with the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Pediatrics to develop a regional children’s healthcare system, and then joined the MBL staff.

Speck was a greatly respected and valued member of the MBL community, not only for his contributions to research and the MBL as an institution, but for his care and support for this community of science that he so deeply loved.

He is survived by his wife, Evelyn Lipper, M.D.; his four children, Anastasia Speck, Stephanie Mastroianni, Will Speck, and Alexandra Slater; ten grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

A memorial notice provided by Dr. Speck’s family is linked here.