In 1897, William R. Grace, an immigrant, shipping magnate, and two-time Mayor of New York City, founded Grace Institute, along with his brother, Michael, and philanthropist, Grace Dodge. His goal was to create a tuition-free program to educate and to find employment for women in need. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, over 100,000 women at Grace Institute have learned skills needed to successfully enter the workforce.
The Early Years:
Grace Institute was originally staffed by the Sisters of Charity. The curriculum guide in 1898 listed cookery, millinery, child care, Red Cross, children’s sewing, and dressmaking as course offerings. By the turn of the century, Grace Institute was offering a schedule of business classes in typing, bookkeeping, and stenography to help women secure jobs in New York City’s rapidly growing business community. This training qualified women for the better-paying positions in offices that were a welcome alternative to factory work.
Over the years, Grace Institute evolved into a secretarial training program that prepared women for careers in the business world. This training included instruction in shorthand, telephone technique, secretarial procedures, and business law. In the early 1960s, part of Fordham University was to be located in the new Lincoln Center complex. That construction required Grace Institute to move from its west-side location. In 1963, J. Peter Grace, grandson of W. R. Grace and president of Grace Institute, constructed a new building for the school on Second Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Along with secretarial skills, new courses were offered in fashion merchandising, food and nutrition, and clothing construction.
In 1997, Grace Institute celebrated its 100th Anniversary.
Bill Clinton, Former President of the United States: For a century, the faculty and staff of Grace Institute have been offering an ideal learning opportunity for their students and preparing them for the responsibilities that lie ahead. Our nation relies on schools such as this to supply the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in the twenty-first century.
George Pataki, Former Governor, State of New York: It gives me great pleasure to offer congratulations to the staff, students, and all associated with Grace Institute on the occasion of its 100th birthday. You have every reason to be proud of Grace’s contributions as a training school for women. Since 1897, Grace has been committed to developing the practical skills for obtaining employment and developing self-sufficiency. The women who complete training at Grace Institute greatly improve the quality of their lives.
Rudolph Guiliani, Former Mayor, City of New York: For one hundred years Grace Institute and the Sisters of Charity have provided fine training for New York women, teaching skills that enable them to successfully enter the business world. Therefore, I, Rudolph W. Guiliani, Mayor of the City of New York, in recognition of this important anniversary, do hereby proclaim, Wednesday, April 16, 1997, in the City of New York as Grace Institute Centennial Day.
As women’s roles in the workplace continued to change over the decades, Grace Institute continued to adapt is program to meet their needs. The Sisters of Charity were no longer able to run the organization; and so professional staff members were hired and Grace continued to become more demand driven and attuned to the needs of the labor market and its employer partners.
Grace was championed by Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Marie Wilson, founder of the Ms. Foundation for Women.
Grace continued to serve as a market leader in workforce development and launched new administrative and customer support trainings to serve the legal, healthcare, nonprofit, and hospitality industries.
In 2015, Grace opens a fresh chapter in its history as it leaves its former home on 2nd Avenue and moves its headquarters to a new facility at 40 Rector Street.