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.
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 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.