The O'Donnell Hall building project was initiated by the Association of Marquette University Women (AMUW). These women were aware of the lack of suitable campus housing for women, prompting them to raise money to buy property for the site of O'Donnell Hall. To secure federal loans for this project, the AMUW deeded all their property to Marquette University but continued raising the funds to pay for the hall. Construction began on the 19th Street side of the property to give time to raze the buildings standing on the east side of the lot; the main entrance is on 18th Street. The hall, constructed in the shape of an "H" originally opened as an all-women's residence, but was later converted to all-male housing for incoming freshmen.
O'Donnell Hall is named for Rev. Edward J. O'Donnell, S.J., a 1931 graduate of Marquette, who in 1948 became the 18th president of the university. In 1962, O'Donnell stepped down from the presidency to become chancellor of the university, a post he held until his health forced him to resign in 1972.
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