Eckley Brinton Coxe (1839–1895) and his wife, Sophia Georgina Fischer (1841–1926), both members of prominent Philadelphia families, have been described by Lehigh historian Ross Yates as being one of the largest donors to Lehigh after the university’s founder Asa Packer. Educated at the University of Pennsylvania and at mining schools in Germany and France, Eckley was an internationally recognized mining engineer who was in charge of the Coxe family anthracite mining enterprises located at Drifton, Pennsylvania. He was a member of the Lehigh Board of Trustees from 1871 until his death in 1895 and was a generous financial donor during his lifetime. Many Lehigh students used his private library and conducted thesis research at the Coxe mines.
Understanding Eckley’s intense devotion to Lehigh and its programs, Sophia rejected donation requests from Columbia University and began establishing strong ties to Lehigh shortly after Eckley’s death. The 1896 donation of more than 10,000 items in Eckley’s working engineering library greatly enhanced the Lehigh collection. Sophia gave monies for many Lehigh construction projects and provided funds for the building of the Coxe Mining Engineering Laboratory, which opened in 1910. She also gave a substantial endowment for the laboratory’s maintenance. Her greatest concern, however, were Lehigh students and their welfare; she initiated a scholarship fund which was continually increased during her lifetime.