About our namesake, John Grado

John Grado
John Grado

John Grado Obituary (PDF | 3MB)  published in December 2014

John Grado was born in Bristol, VA and entered Virginia Tech at age 16 in 1944. With the advent of World War II, his education was interrupted in 1945 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Two years later, he reenrolled at the University, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering (IE) in 1951. His first job was with U.S. Steel in Longport, PA, but after a few months, he returned to his hometown to work at Monroe Calculating Company. In 1954, a job offer from West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company lured him away to create automated paper-finishing lines. After that move, he never left the paper and printing business, finding new and different challenges in that industry for his industrial engineering expertise.

George Wallace, then President of Fitchburg (Massachusetts) Paper Company, met John Grado in 1956, offered him a job as Chief Industrial Engineer, and became a sort of role model. Soon, at age 30, Mr. Grado became Vice-President of Fitchburg Paper and President of the Decotone Division, with plants in the U.S. and Belgium. Decotone Division was an IE's paradise, with many opportunities for productivity improvements, and within one year, the previously unprofitable division was turning a six-figure profit. John Grado's major impacts were noticed by Wallace and the Board of Directors, and at age 35, Mr. Grado became Executive Vice-President of Fitchburg Paper and President of Decotone. Four years later he became President of Fitchburg Paper, which merged with Litton Industries, and became Vice-President of Litton for the Paper, Printing, and Forms Group. At this time (1967), his company numbered 5,000 employees and was responsible for about $300,000,000 in annual sales.

In 1983, John Grado undertook a bold move when Litton Industries decided to sell its paper and printing business. Mr. Grado assembled the necessary financing and bought the Litton Paper, Printing, and Forms Group at a price of $70,000,000. He retained 52% of the stock ownership, with 19% to key employees, and 30% to Realex Capital Corporation. He changed the name of the company to Technographics. In 1999, Technographics was sold, and 12 key employees received more than $1,000,000 each as a result of stock options provided by John Grado.

John Grado's accomplishments in the Fitchburg community are voluminous, and in 1984 he was chosen as the Businessman of the Year for Worchester County. He served on the Board of Directors of the Fitchburg Gas and Electric Company, the First Safety Fund National Bank, the Fitchburg State College, American Red Cross, Secondary Materials Company, George Wallace Foundation, American Paper Institute, Gene Sarazen Foundation, United Fund, and several others. Fitchburg State College awarded him an honorary doctorate.

As a volunteer and a philanthropist, John Grado has given unselfishly of his time and his funds. For each of the last seven years, he has provided all materials and real estate for the construction of a Habitat for Humanity House. He is a major program supporter for the Marco Island Hospital. At Virginia Tech, he has provided several scholarships to student-athletes, and contributed to several other programs of the University. In his home department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, in addition to endowing several academic scholarships, in 1987 he established the John Grado Endowed Professorship, which has been held by Paul Torgersen, Marvin Agee, and John Casali.

John Grado began his service role with Virginia Tech as a member of the College of Engineering's Advisory Board. He has since served on College's Committee of 100, the VT Foundation Board, and the Board of the VT Corporate Research Center. His longstanding service to Industrial and Systems Engineering includes leadership on its Advisory Board and active membership in its Academy of Distinguished Alumni.

He has been honored with the VT Distinguished Alumni Award, election to the College of Academy of Engineering Excellence, and the Industrial and Systems Engineering Agee Distinguished Alumni Award.