Dr. Donald J. Grace

Donald Grace's record 16-year tenure from 1976-1992 as director of the Engineering Experiment Station was marked by spectacular growth.

"I would like to develop a constructive interaction between the EES and outside agencies, and increase the interaction between the EES and the academic section of Tech," said Grace, soon after arriving. Within the two years, he took a number of steps in that regard:

  • Technical resources of EES and the academic units were made more accessible to each other, both formally and informally.
  • Several academic faculty received continuing assignments at EES and were budgeted into EES contracts, when appropriate.
  • Some EES staff taught credit courses and contributed to academic research efforts.
  • Portions of major research contracts were occasionally divided between EES researchers and academic faculty.
  • Grace, and future directors, became a vice president of Georgia Tech.

Spurring Contract Growth

When Grace retired in 1992, the annual dollar value of research contracts totaled nearly $100 million up from $10 million when he arrived. Traditional strengths in defense electronics and economic development were augmented with new research capabilities in areas, such as:

  • Environmental science and technology,
  • Manufacturing,
  • Materials science, and
  • Energy development.

Creating New Labs

To handle the increased volume and scope of work, the number of labs grew to nearly two dozen. New facilities included:

  • A four-building complex in Cobb County for radar and electronics research,
  • The Centennial Research Building on the Georgia Tech campus, and
  • The Advanced Technology Research Center, an incubator for promising high-tech businesses, opened in 1980 with substantial support from EES.

Announcing the Georgia Tech Research Institute

In 1984, the Engineering Experiment Station became the Georgia Tech Research Institute. "We're finally calling ourselves what we evolved into years ago," said Grace in making the announcement.

Grace's primary aim was to support researchers. "If they had good technical ideas, I would go out and try to help them get contracts to do what they wanted to do," he said.

A Bittersweet Farewell

Grace's retirement in 1992 was bittersweet, said Janice Rogers, his assistant since 1986. "He retired to look after [his] wife," she said. Joan Grace suffered from a degenerative muscle disease that left her wheelchair-bound and unable to care for herself, although her mind was unaffected.

For the remaining three years of her life, Joan and Don Grace indulged their love of traveling and ventured around the world. Don Grace passed away in 2007.

For more, view the Wikipedia article on Donald J. Grace.