Biography of Herbert Elmer Drake

A native of New Hampshire and a member of an old New England family, the late Herbert Elmer Drake spent his entire career in educational work. By far the greater part of his work as a teacher, covering more than three decades, was done at one of the high schools of Providence. A distinguished scholar, an inspiring teacher and a man of sterling character, Mr. Drake left his impress on many successive generations of the youths of Rhode Island’s capital, and thus much of his work was of lasting value. He was also prominently active in religious work, a popular member of numerous educational organizations and in every way representative of all of the best characteristics, for which New England people are so justly known and esteemed.

Herbert Elmer Drake was born at Pittsfield, New Hampshire, December 30, 1859, the son of Thomas Thayer and Emily Ann Drake. He received his early education in the public schools of his native town and then prepared for college at Tilton Seminary. He then attended Wesleyan University at Middletown, Connecticut, where he was graduated in 1886. Shortly after his graduation he married and came to Rhode Island, where he taught in the East Greenwich Academy for six years. The next two years were spent abroad in study and travel, much of the time at Berlin, where Mr. Drake was a student at the University of Berlin. On their return to America Mr. and Mrs. Drake came to Providence in 1894, and Mr. Drake became teacher of Latin and Greek at the Classical High School, where he taught continuously until April, 1925, when ill health forced him to relinquish his work. Distinguishing himself greatly as a student even during his college years, he was elected to the society of Phi Beta Kappa. He was also a member of Psi Upsilon Fraternity and of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction, the Barnard Club, the Brown University Teachers’ Association, the New England Association of Colleges and Preparatory Schools, the Classical Association of New England, and the Metacomet Golf Club. His religious affiliations were with the Trinity Union Methodist Episcopal Church, of Providence, of which he was an officer and where for twenty-three years he taught a young women’s Bible class. He was one of the most active members of the congregation and gave valuable services in the different departments of church work.

Mr. Drake married, in 1886, Mary E. Johnson, of Monroe, Connecticut, who had been one of his classmates at Tilton Seminary. Mr. and Mrs. Drake had no children. At the time of his death he was survived, besides by his widow, by three brothers: Dr. Ervin T. Drake, of Franklin, New Hampshire, who died April 2, 1930; Dr. Arthur K. Drake, of Tewksbury, Massachusetts; and Professor John P. Drake, of Emporia, Kansas; and by two sisters: Addie May Drake, a teacher of languages at Tilton Seminary, who died January 27, 1930; and Amy B. Drake, a normal school teacher at Springfield, Vermont.

Herbert Elmer Drake died at the Deaconess Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, after a brief illness, July 9, 1925. The funeral service, largely attended by many friends and former pupils, was held at the Trinity Union Methodist Episcopal Church, Providence.

A man of innate kindliness, Mr. Drake, to a remarkable degree, enjoyed the respect and confidence of all who knew him. His outstanding success as a teacher was as much the result of his fine intellectual equipment as of his high character. Though he led a comparatively quiet life, it was filled with useful and worthwhile work, and much of what he accomplished was of lasting value. His name will always occupy an honored position in the annals of Rhode Island’s educational history.

Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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