Joseph Peter Grace (born 1913)

Wikipedia 🌐 J. Peter Grace

Joseph Peter Grace (May 25, 1913 – April 19, 1995) was an American industrialist. He was president of the diversified chemical company W. R. Grace and Company for 48 years.

1913 (May) - Born Manhasset, New York

Joseph Peter Grace was born in Manhasset on May 25, 1913. When he was born, his family was already very wealthy.

His father was Joseph Peter Grace, Sr. (1872–1950) (see wikipedia -,_Sr. ).

"[Even though Peter was born into a wealthy family], after being educated at St. Paul's School in Concord, N.H., and at Yale, where he lettered in three sports, in 1936 the 23-year-old took a job in the W. R. Grace mailroom.

During his early years with the company, Mr. Grace had the chance to indulge his passion for athletics.

A world-class polo player, in the winters he played goalie at night for the St. Nick's semiprofessional hockey team in New York." [aa2]

1941 - Married Margaret Fennelly

He married Margaret Fennelly in 1941, and the couple remained together until his death.

1945 - President and CEO of W. R. Grace and Company

[He] succeeded his father, Joseph Peter Grace, Sr. (1872–1950) (see wikipedia -,_Sr. ) as President and CEO of W. R. Grace and Company in 1945 when his father suffered a stroke. W. R. Grace and Company in was founded by his grandfather William R. Grace, the first Roman Catholic to be elected Mayor of New York City. "His maternal grandfather was Charles B. Macdonald, a major figure in early American golf who built the first 18-hole course in the United States."

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Personal life

Grace was the kind of man who, at age seventy, Indian-wrestled fellow chairmen of the board at his desk, showered in the evening to save time getting to work in the morning, wore a Beretta pistol (for terrorists), and, as a conservative Democrat, took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to support President Ronald Reagan's tax cuts.



In the Oval Office in 1984

In the Kennedy administration, J. Peter Grace was head of the Commerce Department Committee on the Alliance for Progress. President Reagan, in announcing the selection of J. Peter Grace to lead The Grace Commission on waste and inefficiency in the Federal government, said:

We have a problem that's been 40 years in the making, and we have to find ways to solve it. And I didn't want to ruin your appetites, so I waited till now to tell you this, but during the hour we're together here eating and talking, the Government has spent $83 million. And by the way, that includes the price of your lunch. [Laughter] Milton Friedman is right. There really is no such thing as a free lunch. The interest on our debt for the last hour was about $10 million of that.

In selecting your Committee, we didn't care whether you were Democrats or Republicans. Starting with Peter Grace, we just wanted to get the very best people we could find, and I think we were successful.

I'll repeat to you today what I said a week ago when I announced Peter's appointment: Be bold. We want your team to work like tireless bloodhounds. Don't leave any stone unturned in your search to root out inefficiency.

Mr. Grace, a Democrat, was asked what he would say to the campaign theme of Walter Mondale, the 1984 Democratic Presidential candidate, that higher taxes would be required to ease the deficit regardless of who wins the November election.

"I'd tell him he's nuts," Grace said. "He's wrong. He's wrong."

Awards and memberships

In 1967, he was awarded the Laetare Medal by the University of Notre Dame. In 1984, Mr. Grace received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York." That year he also received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards. Grace was a leader in the American Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Grace was a member of the conservative American organization the Council for National Policy. He was responsible for the, and co-founded "Citizens Against Government Waste" with Jack Anderson in 1984.

1995 (April 21) - Passing

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Although his company, W. R. Grace, always came first, Mr. Grace was extraordinarily active in public and religious circles, and in his younger days was a star athlete.

A leading layman of the Roman Catholic Church, Mr. Grace became widely known to the public from 1982 to 1984 for his service as head of President Ronald Reagan's Private Sector Study on Cost Control in the Federal Government, which came to be known as the Grace Commission.

In that role, Mr. Grace, a longtime critic of what he regarded as profligate Government spending, directed a group of about 2,000 business executives to come up with ways to root out waste and inefficiency in the Federal Government.

"I have 9 children, 12 grandchildren, and I'm concerned about their freedom," Mr. Grace said in a 1983 interview. "We've got to get this growth rate and the outlays down. It can't go on this way. If this deficit goes to $1 trillion a year, our freedoms are gone."

While his views on the evils of the Federal deficit have gained currency over time, from time to time Mr. Grace's actions and opinions on other matters generated a furor.

There was a severe public reaction, for instance, when W. R. Grace admitted that in the early 1950's that it employed as a consultant a German chemist who was convicted in the Nuremburg war-crimes tribunal. And Mr. Grace unleashed a firestorm of protest after a 1982 speech in Dallas when he commented that the Federal food stamp program was basically a subsidy for Puerto Ricans. He subsequently apologized.

Despite his widespread interests, the company that bore his family name was Mr. Grace's enduring passion. For 47 years, Mr. Grace ran W. R. Grace & Company, a $5 billion specialty chemicals and specialized health-care company that his grandfather, William R. Grace, founded in Peru in 1854 as a shipping and trading company. And even when he agreed, reluctantly, to step aside in 1992, he remained an active force as chairman of the company's board.

In an interview in 1990, when he was 77, Mr. Grace [said he has no] asked about his retirement plans.

Even as his health deteriorated [in spring of 1995], Mr. Grace fought tenaciously but unsuccessfully to retain control of the company that for more than 140 years always had a member of his family at the top.

Following the sudden resignation on March 2 [1995] of J. P. Bolduc, the man who succeeded him, Mr. Grace and his company were confronted by a group of disgruntled shareholders demanding sweeping changes in the structure and composition of W. R. Grace's board of directors.

Included in those demands was a requirement that Mr. Grace and a group of longstanding friends and business assocates not stand for re-election to the board at the company's annual meeting on May 11.

In late March, the company said it would comply with the shareholder demands, but the board did not formally meet to consider the changes until April 6.

At that meeting, in the W. R. Grace Building in midtown Manhattan, a gravely ill Mr. Grace spoke against the changes, which he called "offensive," and urged the board to resist their being put into effect.

His stand was completely in character. A short man who spoke with a slight lisp, Mr. Grace once told a reporter: "I am never discouraged. When you get discouraged you ought to pack it in."

The board did not agree, and the measures were approved. Although he would have stayed on as honorary chairman, Peter Grace's 59-year career at W. R. Grace was over.

It was a career circumstances did not require he pursue.


When his father, Joseph P. Grace, suffered a stroke in 1945, Mr. Grace took over as president and chief executive. During his tenure, Peter Grace engineered and oversaw two separate transformations of the company he inherited.

From what was originally a Latin American trading, shipping and banking company, he remade the company in the 1950's and 60's into a conglomerate with interests from chemicals to consumer goods.

But by the mid-1980's, it was clear that W. R. Grace was in too many businesses. And Mr. Grace recruited Mr. Bolduc, his top aide on the Grace Commission, to revamp the company again. Today, W. R. Grace is the world's largest specialty chemical company and a leader in specialized health care.

Deeply religious throughout his life, Mr. Grace was a founding member of Legatus, an international organization of Catholic chief executives whose mission is to study, live and spread the faith in their professional and personal lives.

He was also president of the Catholic Youth Organization of the Archdiocese of New York. In 1967, the University of Notre Dame awarded him the Laetare Medal, the highest Catholic honor in the United States.

Over his life, he served on eight different corporate boards, including Citicorp and Citibank, N.A.

He was also active in a number of charitable interests, especially those whose activities focused on New York City's disadvantaged youths, a group that includes the Grace Institute, Covenant House and the Inner City Scholarship Fund.

Mr. Grace is survived by his wife, the former Margaret Fennelly, whom he married in 1941; nine children, J. Peter Grace 3d of Locust Valley, L.I., Dr. William R. Grace of Plandome, N.Y., Michael S. Grace of Far Hills, N.J., Margaret Mary Grace-Shethar of Colorado Springs, Colo., Mary J. Grace of Manhattan, Nora M. O'Donnell of Delray Beach, Fla., Patrick P. Grace of Greenville, S.C., Theresa M. Sears of Manhasset, and Christopher G. Grace of Boca Raton, Fla.; one brother, Charles M. Grace of Santa Monica, Calif.; a sister, Janet M. Grace of Old Westbury, L.I., and 20 grandchildren.