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B.J. Palmer standing near a fountain

The Palmer Family

The Palmer Family Heritage and the History of Palmer College of Chiropractic

The science, art and philosophy of chiropractic evolved from Daniel David (D.D.) Palmer’s years of independent research and study of human health and disease. Following the successful application of his knowledge to initial patients in 1895, he began teaching others in Davenport, Iowa. The first classes of the Palmer School and Cure were held in 1897. Palmer is chiropractic’s founding college. D.D. Palmer is known as The Discoverer of chiropractic and The Founder of the chiropractic profession.

One of D.D. Palmer’s early students was his son, Bartlett Joshua (B.J.) Palmer, D.C. Known as The Developer of chiropractic, one of B.J.’s first acts was to incorporate the school and change the name to Palmer School of Chiropractic, which was chartered in 1907. B.J. headed the school from 1906 until his death in 1961. Mabel Heath Palmer, D.C., B.J.’s wife and a Palmer graduate, was the school’s treasurer and a faculty member. Mabel is known as The First Lady of Chiropractic.

After B.J. Palmer’s death in 1961, the Palmer presidency passed to his son, David Daniel Palmer, D.C., who also was a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance & Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania. As did his father and grandfather before him, Dr. Dave, as he was known, brought his own brand of leadership to Palmer. Just as they were known as The Developer and The Founder of chiropractic, respectively, Dr. Dave became known as “The Educator.”

In 1964, under Dr. Dave’s leadership, the Palmer School of Chiropractic was renamed Palmer College of Chiropractic and was designated a non-profit institution. The ultimate result was an upgraded campus and an increase in students and faculty. The College was accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education in 1979 and by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools in 1984.

Dr. Dave and his wife, Agnes Mae High Palmer, D.C., had three daughters, Bonnie Palmer McCloskey, Jenny Wren Palmer Sutton, H.C.D. (Hon.), and Vickie Anne Palmer, H.C.D. (Hon.). Each of the Palmer daughters has served the College and Board of Trustees in various roles.

Vickie Anne Palmer, known as The Refiner of chiropractic, joined the Palmer College Board of Trustees in 1978 and was elected chairman in 1987. Under her leadership as Board chairman, on Oct. 17, 1980, Palmer College acquired Northern California College of Chiropractic, which became today’s Palmer West campus in San Jose, Calif. Twenty-two years later, on Oct. 4, 2002, the College made it possible for even more students to learn the art, science and philosophy of chiropractic by opening the Palmer Florida campus in Port Orange, Fla. Ms. Palmer served 21 years as chairman of the Palmer College Board of Trustees and continues to serve the Board as secretary general and as a member of the Executive Committee.


Palmer College of Chiropractic West started out as Northern California College of Chiropractic in 1978 and may have the distinction of being the only chiropractic college chartered by students. Initially, they utilized temporary locations for classroom instruction. On July 4, 1979, NCCC acquired the former Peterson Junior High School and moved to a new location at 1095 Dunford Way in Sunnyvale. They had secured a location but still had the daunting task of obtaining status with the Council on Chiropractic Education.

Palmer College was supportive of this new chiropractic college, serving on its Clinical Advisory Council which provided expertise to them in the areas of clinical and philosophical studies. Palmer college recognized this fledgling college’s pioneering spirit while identifying its strengths and deficiencies. If the college was to survive it needed Palmer’s expertise; it needed the Palmer name.

On September 18,1980, the Palmer Board of Trustees became responsible for the institution and the College officially became Palmer College of Chiropractic West. In September of 1981, Palmer West celebrated its one-year anniversary and officially vested Dr. John Miller as Palmer West’s first president. It also holds its first two graduations. The first two classes include those students responsible for the founding of Northern California College of Chiropractic.

With its future secure, Palmer West settles down into the serious business of educating doctors of chiropractic. The college experiences increasing enrollment, necessitating an expansion of its facilities. The college, therefore, occupies an additional campus on Pomeroy Avenue in Santa Clara in April 1989. The second campus was approximately one mile from the Sunnyvale campus and many students made the commute by bicycle. Upper quarter students returned to the Sunnyvale campus for clinic.

In February 1991, Palmer College changed its board structure, bringing Palmer College of Chiropractic and Palmer College of Chiropractic West into one system with the same board of trustees. The following year Dr. Peter Martin, D.C. was appointed PCCW’s second president.

In 1993, PCCW merged its two campuses into a larger one in San Jose. With the new campus came a pride of achievement and a sense of professionalism. In 2004, Dr. Peter Martin, was installed as interim president. The Board confirmed his appointment as president on February 7, 2005.

After serving 12 years as the vice president for research at Palmer, Dr. William Meeker returned to his alma mater and was appointed the president of the Palmer West campus in 2007.


Palmer has a long history in Florida. Dr. B.J. Palmer spent most of his last years in St. Armands Key, Sarasota, Florida. He worked, relaxed, and entertained in the Florida sunshine close to the winter headquarters of Barnum and Bailey Circus. The circus and its performers were a life-long interest of B.J. Dr. Dave Palmer maintained a winter home in Naples, Florida. In Naples, Dr. Dave expanded Palmer Broadcasting to Florida and founded the Poinciana Golf Club.

Plans for a Palmer Florida campus were a long time in the making. Dr. B.J. Palmer announced in 1951 that someday in the future Palmer would build a campus in the Sunshine state. It would take almost a half-century for that plan to come to fruition but in 2000 the Palmer Board of Trustees with Vickie Ann Palmer at the helm voted to take up that challenge. In 2001, funding was secured and so started the College’s third expansion - Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida.

City administrators of Port Orange Florida were enthusiastic supporters of a Palmer College locating in their city from the start. They were looking to entice a reputable professional college to their municipality, Palmer was the logical choice. To help facilitate the start of the new campus, the city made available the Allen Green Civic Center on Clyde Morris Boulevard for Palmer’s use. It was in this location that preparations were made for the initial class that would matriculate on October 7, 2002 as well as the groundbreaking event at the permanent campus site on City Center Parkway in Port Orange.

Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida’s first class consisted of 46 students and 16 faculty. These nascent learners and scholars were the pioneers of a new Palmer campus and its new chiropractic curriculum. Just over three years later that first class, class 054, completed their clinical requirements for their December 2005 graduation.

The first of the new buildings for the Port Orange campus was officially opened on October 4, 2003, a second in November 2005 and in April of 2012 the Standard Process Student Center was also added to the expanding campus.

In 2005, Dr. Peter Martin was named president of Palmer West and Palmer Florida. Today he continues at the helm of the Florida campus ensuring the tradition of Palmer excellence in education is maintained.

You can access the Palmer family official biographies and photos in the media news room.

For information about a career in chiropractic, check out our Admissions information.

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