The Catholic University of America

Oct. 17, 2014

A Grand Dedication for a Grand Building


Most Rev. Barry Knestout, President John Garvey, and Bishop David M. O’Connell cut the ribbon, officially dedicating the building.

The dedication of Catholic University’s newly renovated LEED-certified Father O’Connell Hall was held Oct. 17 under bright blue skies on the first day of Cardinal Weekend, the University’s annual celebration of homecoming and reunions. And as noted by University President John Garvey, the ceremony marked an extra special homecoming.

His predecessor, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Diocese of Trenton, had returned to campus as the guest of honor to witness the formal dedication and blessing of the 100-year-old collegiate Gothic style building that now bears his name.

Bishop O’Connell, a CUA alumnus, served as the University’s 14th President for nearly 13 years — from 1998 to 2010 — prior to his elevation to bishop. A crowd of alumni, students, faculty, and staff offered him a standing ovation.

“The rededication of this grand building is only possible because of the dedication of so many people,” said Garvey. “First among them is Bishop O’Connell.” He noted the former President’s many accomplishments.

Among them, Garvey said that 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.”

A large crowd turned out for the O’Connell Hall dedication.  

Garvey also noted that “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.”


Related Links


> President Garvey's Remarks
> Bishop O'Connell's Remarks
> Frank Persico's Remarks

Speaking about the building that was originally named Graduate Hall and later Cardinal Hall, Bishop O’Connell said “This great stone structure was designed to be a showplace of Catholic University, part of the inspired vision of Bishop Thomas Shahan, fourth rector of Catholic University, to give the bishops’ university the look, feel, and texture of a real university. He succeeded.”

The newly LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a designation given by the U.S. Green Building Council) O’Connell Hall was built in 1914 (with additions in 1959 and 1962). It sits along Michigan Avenue on the largest college campus in Washington, D.C. The renovation preserves the grandeur and heritage of the 69,178-square-foot building, while incorporating modern design, materials, and technology.

Limestone, marble, bronze, glass, and wood used in the renovation reflect the surrounding historical buildings and architectural history of the University. The centerpiece of the building is Heritage Hall, a grand room with wood paneling, high ceilings featuring rosettes and other intricate molding, and bronze chandeliers. The room initially served as the University’s main dining hall in the early 1900s and, with the restoration, looks virtually the same as it did then, reminding visitors of a long-ago era of college life.

“Standing here today, it’s hard to imagine what the 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,” said Garvey.

“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.”

Bishop O’Connell said he was humbled by the naming of the building that Garvey called “the gateway to the University” in his honor.

  Bishop O'Connell addresses the crowd.

He said his time as President “was an extraordinary opportunity for me, one that I shared with an exceptional faculty, a hard-working and committed administration and staff, generous donors, and a great bunch of students that I came to know and love. Cardinal Hall may now bear my name but it is their fingerprints that are all over the place and it was serving them that made any small contribution that I was able to make worthwhile.”

He added that in honoring him, “you are really honoring those with whom and for whom I served here.”

Like Garvey and Bishop O’Connell, Frank Persico, vice president for university relations and chief of staff, noted in his remarks the generosity of donors who made the “transformation of this beautiful building” possible.

“As you go through the building today you will see the names … of those individuals on rooms and wings and foyers and patios and conference rooms and interview rooms,” said Persico. “You will see names like Joiner, McInerney, May, O’Neil, Bidwill, Banziger, Andreas, Scheve, Tuohey, Daly, Shay, and more. If not for the support and generosity of these individuals, this renovation would not have taken place; so we thank you from the very bottom of our hearts for your generosity.”

Among the many alumni back on campus for Cardinal Weekend and the reunion with Bishop O’Connell was Rev. Kyle Ingles, B.A. 1999, who is the director of campus ministry for the Diocese of Colorado Springs. He said it was important to him to be present for the dedication.

“Bishop O’Connell was a huge influence in my decision to become a priest. He inspired so many of us to find out where God was calling us. This is a really great and fitting tribute to him,” said Father Ingles, who recalls fun times in the student government offices in Cardinal Hall during his student years as judicial vice president.

Father O’Connell Hall will now be home to the offices of alumni relations, admissions, enrollment services, financial aid, the registrar, student accounts, and advancement.

In addition to remarks, a ribbon-cutting, and self-guided tours, the dedication celebration was a blessing of the building, both inside and out. The ceremony featured an invocation by Most Rev. Barry Knestout, auxiliary bishop of Washington, an interior blessing by Bishop O’Connell, and a benediction by Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv., University chaplain and director of Campus Ministry.

Father Jude asked the guest of honor for a last blessing. Bishop O’Connell raised his arms and told the crowd to “Go in peace.” They answered with a resounding “Thanks be to God.”




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