The Catholic University of America

Remarks at Dedication of Father O'Connell Hall
John Garvey, President of The Catholic University of America
Father O'Connell Hall
Oct. 17, 2014

Good morning, and welcome to the Catholic University of America. This really is a homecoming. I’m delighted to have Bishop O’Connell back with us today as we dedicate this beautiful space named in his honor. We are also glad to have Bishop Knestout with us to mark this occasion. Finally, welcome back to our alumni. It’s always a joy to have you back on campus.

Fr. O’Connell Hall is the fourth oldest building standing on this campus. In fact, it celebrates its centennial this year. Since it was opened in 1914, this building has been “Graduate Hall,” “University Center,” “Cardinal Hall,” and now “Fr. O’Connell Hall.” It has served as a graduate men’s residence hall and later an undergraduate women’s residence hall. It has been a dining hall, a food court—and a much loved student pub. But for a hundred years, this building has been a symbolic gateway to The Catholic University of America. For many of us, this collegiate gothic building, with its beautiful tracery windows, was one of the first things we saw when we arrived on campus.

Now, Fr. O’Connell Hall will be the actual gateway to the University for our students. When prospective students come to CUA, they will begin their visit at O’Connell Hall in the Office of Admissions. Fr. O’Connell Hall will also house Enrollment Services, Financial Aid, the Registrar, Student Accounts, and Advancement. So during their time at The Catholic University, O’Connell Hall will continue to play an important role in students’ lives. Finally, when our students graduate, they will have a home at the University in Fr. O’Connell Hall where the Office of Alumni Relations will be located.

The re-dedication of this grand building is only possible because of the dedication of so many people. First among them is Bishop O’Connell. We would be here all day were I to try to list all of Bishop O’Connell’s accomplishments as the 14th President of the University. So I’ll highlight just a few of them. In his twelve years as president, Bishop O’Connell oversaw the building of three new residence halls and the Pryzbyla Center as well as the renovation of many other facilities. He initiated the University’s plans for the development of the southern edge of our campus—now the bustling Monroe Street Market. He purchased nearly 50 acres of land on the campus’s west side, effectively increasing the size of the campus by a third.

During his tenure Bishop O’Connell worked diligently to strengthen the University’s Catholic identity. He introduced the First Year Experience, which gives our students a common academic core and introduces to them the rich intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church. He established the University’s wonderful relationship with the Conventual Franciscan Friars who minister to our students. In the first year of his tenure, Bishop O’Connell hosted a national conference on the implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, St. John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic universities. Nearly a decade later he hosted Pope Benedict XVI when the Holy Father came to The Catholic University to address leaders in Catholic education. Commitment to the University’s unique mission as the national university of the Catholic Church in the United States defined Bishop O’Connell’s service to the University. The entire University community is deeply grateful to him.

As you walk through Fr. O’Connell Hall you will see offices and spaces named to honor those individuals whose support made the renovations possible. These named spaces are a daily reminder to the University community of the generosity and commitment of our alumni and donors.

Standing here today, it’s hard to imagine what campus must have looked like a hundred years ago when this Hall was one of just six buildings and the student body had fewer than 600 students. But it’s precisely because our generous supporters could imagine what this campus might look like with a first-class library, for example, with a university center, and with 7,000 graduate and undergraduate students studying at The Catholic University of America that we are standing here today. We are deeply grateful to our donors for their commitment to the University.



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