James Schnabel, a native of the Lehigh Valley, came from a family of Lehigh University graduates. His father, William Russell Schnabel, graduated in 1905 with a degree in chemical engineering, and his brother, William Heller Schnabel, graduated in 1939, also with a degree in that field. William Schnabel also provided for Lehigh in his estate.
Mrs. Schnabel, born Grace Modene Swift in 1910, was a native of Lexington, North Carolina. She graduated in 1932 from the Lebanon Hospital Training School for Nurses in New York City and received her certification as a registered nurse in 1933. She worked as a registered nurse for AT&T for many years, moving to the rank of Supervising Nurse. On October 1, 1952 at the age of 42 she married Jim Schnabel in Bronxville, New York. The Schnabels resided in Connecticut for some years. After Jim Schnabel died in 1962, Mrs. Schnabel moved to Jupiter, Fla. She remained in close touch with Lehigh through the years until her death in 1998 at the age of 89.
Mrs. Schnabel left a bequest of more than $1 million to establish the James and Grace Schnabel Memorial Endowment at Lehigh University. It was their wish that the endowment be used in the acquisition of library materials.