Francis Dravo was 24 when he lost one engineering job, then another because of the depression of 1890. Undaunted, he persuaded his brother-in-law to join him in a partnership selling steam power plants. The firm of F.R. Dravo and Company was launched by building a reputation for customer satisfaction. As the firm branched out into other heavy construction fields, Dravo concentrated on the engineering elements of the business. He improved dredging equipment, brought diesel engines to river barges and replaced riveted hulls with welded hulls in the company’s barge-building operations.
Both he and his brother, Ralph, were close associates of Henry Drinker, Lehigh’s fifth president, and Walter Okeson, executive director of the Alumni Association and later Lehigh’s treasurer. Dravo served a president of the Alumni Association in 1905 and in 1927, and was an alumnus trustee from 1908 through 1911 and from 1928 until his death. After his retirement, Dravo continued to commute by train from his home in Sewickley to the company’s offices in downtown Pittsburgh. On the morning of February 26, 1934, the trained derailed and Dravo was one of the passengers killed in the wreck.
Dravo made a substantial bequest to Lehigh. His wife, Fanny, continued her husband’s generous contributions to the university. Dravo House, built in 1948, honors the dedication of the Dravo family to Lehigh.