Francis Palmer was from the town of Parma and attended the Brockport Collegiate Institute in 1859. Afterwards he went to the University of Rochester, taught in several high schools, and then came to Brockport in 1868 as head of the "Training Department." In 1871 he became professor of "Ancient Languages" until he left in 1878, to become the principal of Fredonia Normal School.
The "Training Department" included both the campus school, that is the school for local children that was a practice school for the student teachers, and the "Classical" program. The old Collegiate Institute had had a classical program too, sort of a college prep thing, where one studied Latin and Greek, the classics and so on. When Brockport became a "Normal" school in 1867, it was supposed to focus on teacher training, but for many years the old classical tradition was continued in this separate department. It was not until almost 1900 that the state's wishes prevailed and the classical program was eliminated, making Brockport's focus exclusively on training teachers, which focus continued up into the 1960s, when a wider ranging liberal arts curriculum began anew.