Eugene Grace was shortstop and captain of Lehigh’s baseball team, graduating in 1899 with his older brother, J.W. “Gator” Grace, Jr., class valedictorian. Following graduation, the Boston Braves offered Grace a contract for $200 a month. Instead, Grace took a job as a crane operator for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, working 12 hours a day at 15 cents an hour because, he once explained, he didn’t attend to Lehigh to learn to play baseball.
By 1902, Grace was superintendent of yards and transportation, by 1908, general manager and a director. By 1913, he was president of the company, retiring in 1957 as chairman of the board after 33 years of service as chairman and chief executive officer. Under Grace’s leadership, Bethlehem Steel became the second largest steel producer in the country, an innovator in structural steel and shipbuilding and, perhaps, the most important defense contractor during two world wars.
Grace joined Lehigh’s board of trustees in 1912 and chaired the board from 1924 until his retirement from the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. He was the recipient of the New York Lehigh Club’s L-in-Life Award. He continued his interest in Lehigh athletics and was responsible for recruiting the university’s first athletic director and its first wrestling coach, the legendary Billy Sheridan. In later years, he was driven to the hill overlooking old Taylor Stadium to watch the Lehigh-Lafayette game from his car. He passed away in 1960.
Grace’s most visible contribution to Lehigh is Grace Hall, completed in 1940 to house social and athletic events.