Virginia Tech Honors Engineer Minor Pace for his Career Achievements

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From left to right are: Richard C. Benson, dean of Virginia Tech's College of Engineering who
presented the award; E. Minor Pace, recognized for his outstanding career with
Inland Steel Coal Company; and Dr. Gerry Luttrell, assistant head of Virginia Tech's
Mining and Minerals Engineering Department.

--Lynn Nystrom

E. Minor Pace, of Mount Vernon, Ill., who earned his bachelor’s degree in mining engineering from Virginia Tech in 1943, is a 2010 inductee into Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering Academy of Engineering Excellence, joining an elite group of 97 individuals out of more than 55,000 living engineering alumni.

The Academy of Engineering Excellence was founded in 1999 by F. William Stephenson, past dean of the college of engineering, and the College’s Advisory Board. This year marked the eleventh anniversary of the first induction.

“The academy represents another way Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering has selected to showcase our loyal ambassadors.  These alumni all represent people who have lived their lives representing the spirit of Ut Prosim, Virginia Tech’s motto, meaning ‘That I may serve,’ “said Richard C. Benson, dean of the College of Engineering and the holder of the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Chair of Engineering.

Pace grew up as the ninth child in a “Cheaper by the Dozen” family of nine boys and three girls.  It was the 1920s, and his father, who had only one month of official schooling to his name, operated one of the first automobile agencies in a rural area 16 miles south of Charlottesville, Va. Minor Pace was the first member of his family to graduate from high school.  But he did not just graduate ­­–– he was the valedictorian for the class as well as a three-year varsity letterman in basketball.

His strong high school performance insured his acceptance into Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, his number one choice for a higher education degree. He soon learned that the mining engineering program offered numerous opportunities for its students to gain lucrative employment in the summer.  He had waited tables his last three years, but this part time job was in no way equivalent to the $7 an hour he could make in the early 1940s working in a coal mine. However, in college he also worked 60 hours a month for the National Youth Administration.

Pace, a member of the Corps of Cadets, officially graduated with the Class of 1943, but with World War II calling every able-bodied young man into action, VPI, as it was then known, gave him his degree a quarter early so he could enter Fort Belvoir for his officer training. As he was about to embark on his military tour of duty, he married his sweetheart Helen in a ceremony at the Blacksburg Episcopal Church, and brought her with him. Helen, a graduate of Harrisonburg State Teachers College, taught elementary school back in Scotsville where Minor had attended high school.  “She had bought a car, and I had to teach her how to drive it,” he smiles, recalling how their relationship started 67 “wonderful” years ago.

During the War, he traveled to the Pacific with the 1896th engineering aviation battalion attached to the 5th Air Force, building and maintaining airstrips in New Guinea.  He was discharged as a captain in 1946, and went to work for Inland Steel Company where he stayed for 34 years until his retirement in 1980. 
He earned his master’s degree in mining engineering in 1948 at the University of West Virginia. He also added to his academic experience a stint at Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.
As Inland grew, with properties in three states, it became the Inland Steel Coal Company. Pace worked his way up the ladder to the executive vice president, earning a reputation for modernizing the company and improving its profit margins.

While with Inland, Pace served as vice chairman of the Kentucky Coal Institute, chair of the Illinois Coal institute, chair of the Coal Division of the Society of Mining Engineers, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Society of Mining Engineers (SME).
He received two national awards, SME’s Percy Nicholls Award, and the American Institute of Mining Engineers’ Erskine Ramsay Award, for his contributions to the industry. He also received the Distinguished Engineering Award. Among his numerous impacts, he worked with Inland’s research department to break coal into uses for steam and metallurgical needs.  He also helped bring about a process for furnishing coal that was low in sulfur content to power companies.

In 1986 Pace received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Virginia Tech MinE Department. He is also a member of the University’s Caldwell Society.

He’s been active in various communities in which he has lived.  He has received a Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts, served on Fire and Police Commission, City Council, Director on Hospital Board, YMCA, Bank, and Vice Chairman Board of Pikeville College.  He has also served on several positions in The Diocese of his church.

The Paces currently reside in Mount Vernon, Ill. They have three children: Kerry Pace of Aurora, Ill.; Kim Pace of New Port Richey, Fl.; and Kirk Pace of Belleville, Ill.


Related Links

Virginia Tech College of Engineering Inducts New Academy Members, May 3, 2010