David “D.G.” Kerr was one of many Lehigh graduates who became “men of steel.” After graduating from Lehigh in 1884 with a degree in metallurgy, Kerr, a native of Conemaugh, Pennsylvania, worked in the metallurgy labs of the Edgar Thompson Works in Braddock, Pennsylvania, part of Andrew Carnegie’s steel holdings. In 1889, he was sent by the company to study steel production in Sweden, stopping on the way to visit Carnegie at his Scottish castle.
In Sweden, Kerr learned how to make spiegeleisen, a key ingredient in making steel, and developed plans for Carnegie to produce it in the United States. His next job, assistant to the vice president in charge of raw materials for Carnegie Steel, made Kerr a recognized authority on the production, transportation, supply and usability of raw material for the iron and steel industry.
When Carnegie Steel was merged into U.S. Steel in 1903, Kerr was one of the 51 partners in the company to profit by the sale. In 1909, he became a vice-president of U.S. Steel in charge of the production and distribution of ore, limestone and coal, and remained in that position until his retirement in 1932. Kerr received an honorary doctorate in engineering from Lehigh in 1933. Upon his death in 1948, Kerr bequeathed an unrestricted fund to Lehigh.