Cardinal Hall to Be Renamed for Father O’Connell

Cardinal Hall

During the 12 years of Father David O’Connell’s presidency, Catholic University has flourished, with record growth in enrollments, fundraising and endowment. He has overseen the construction of three new residence halls and a new university center, and the renovation of 15 campus buildings. On his watch the university accomplished two goals — the acquisition of 49 acres of property on its western border and the launch of the redevelopment of its South Campus — that will have profound implications for CUA for decades to come. To top it all off, on April 17, 2008, he hosted a visit by Pope Benedict XVI.

At the end of this summer, Father O’Connell will step down and pass the mantle of leadership to a new president, for whom a search is currently under way.

To honor Father O’Connell’s service to the university, CUA’s Board of Trustees decided unanimously on Dec. 15, 2009, to rename Cardinal Hall in his honor. The building’s name will be officially changed to Father O’Connell Hall during a dinner ceremony in early June to celebrate his accomplishments as the university’s 14th president.

The renaming follows a distinguished precedent: Six other campus buildings are named in honor of former rectors and presidents.

CUA alumnus Ed Gillespie, chair of the board’s development committee, will co-chair a committee of CUA trustees that will solicit donations to aid in funding the renovations needed in the renamed building. The campaign is called the Father O’Connell Legacy Fund.

“I’m excited about us being able to honor Father O’Connell for his dedicated and successful service to CUA, and at the same time help renovate one of our most cherished landmarks,” says Gillespie, formerly chairman of the Republican National Committee and counselor to President George W. Bush. “Cardinal Hall is a beautiful building, and in many ways the heart of the campus. Renaming it for our second-longest-serving president and using that honor to help raise the money needed to restore the building will be a fitting and lasting tribute to a man whose tenure will leave a lasting impact on our school.”

The renovations to Cardinal Hall, a stately Collegiate Gothic structure built in 1914, have been a priority for Father O’Connell during his tenure, especially considering the building’s prime location facing Michigan Avenue. Instead of a half-vacant architectural gem, the restored building would become a new student business hub, transforming 70,000 square feet of space into an efficient, modern center through which students would enter the life of the university. The new Father O’Connell Hall would become the university’s Enrollment Management Center, bringing together the offices of admissions, financial aid, enrollment services (including student accounts) and student housing to meet the needs of prospective and current students. This would make tasks such as enrolling, paying bills, selecting a room and registering for classes a convenient “one-stop shopping” experience.

The renovated Cardinal Hall will also house the Office of Alumni Relations, signaling the university’s commitment to provide its graduates with an easily accessible center in the heart of campus life.

Of the projected $15 million cost of the renovation, approximately $10 million has been pledged so far.

Preliminary work on Cardinal Hall has already begun. Renovations have been made to the building’s original Gothic tracery windows, and new energy-efficient roofing has been installed. Workers have also repaired the mortar between the masonry in the building’s walls.

Those who wish to contribute to the Father O’Connell Legacy Fund should contact the Office of University Development at 202-319-6910. For more information about the campaign, visit — L.C.

$60,000 for Haitian Earthquake Victims

CUA Cares banner

Within 24 hours of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti on Jan. 12, student groups were forming at CUA to respond to the disaster.

The result, “CUA Cares — A Novena of Prayer and Action for the People of Haiti,” included three initiatives: educating the campus community, encouraging prayer and raising funds to support those affected by the disaster.

The novena began with a Mass on Thursday, Jan. 14. From then on, students gathering nightly in residence hall communities prayed a novena prayer written for the cause.

From Jan. 14 to 22, the student-led initiative collected more than $28,000 from students, faculty, staff and others. The university matched these funds and supplemented them to bring the total CUA contribution to $60,000. All of the proceeds were sent to Catholic Relief Services, which is helping the Haitian people.

“The outpouring of prayers, concern, generosity and support from our community for the people of Haiti in their time of crisis has been nothing short of inspiring,” said Father David O’Connell, university president, in a statement to the faculty, staff and students. “I am always so proud of our university community and its mission, but never more so than when we are called to respond to people in need.”

Money was collected at the university center, athletic events, university Masses and a concert given by a student a cappella group. Even out-of-town visitors who came to campus before the annual March for Life were solicited by CUA students.

Harnessing the Sun

Solar panels being installed

Up to 20 percent of the electricity used by four campus buildings is now being produced by solar energy.

Late last year, 1,088 solar panels were installed on 30,233 square feet of rooftop on Aquinas, Flather and Gibbons halls and the Raymond A. DuFour Center.

The 294-kilowatt system, installed at no cost to CUA, is owned and operated by Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES). Last fall, CUA signed a 20-year agreement with WGES to purchase electricity generated by the solar panels — about 340,000 kilowatt hours a year — at guaranteed prices.

Over the course of a year, 10 to 20 percent of the electricity used by the four buildings will come from solar energy. In terms of the amount of electricity produced, the panels comprise the largest solar-energy system in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

The 3-by-6-foot solar panels, installed at a five-degree angle and not visible from the ground, convert sunlight into electricity. “Electricity is produced even on cloudy days, although in smaller amounts, because panels still collect energy from the sun,” says Brian Alexander, CUA’s director of energy and utilities management.

By using the solar-energy system, CUA will produce 294 fewer tons of carbon emissions annually, the equivalent of the carbon emissions created by the use of 30,300 gallons of gasoline.

The project has provided teaching moments: Undergraduates in the School of Engineering’s new alternative-energy concentration have toured the installation and graduate students in the School of Architecture and Planning’s sustainable-design program have learned about the installation in class.

The “teachable moment” provided by the advent of solar power at CUA has been extended to encompass a CUA competition open to all students. Teams are being invited to design a functional picnic table with the capability of storing and supplying electric power generated from solar-energy panels. The winning design will be named in April 2010, the month the world will mark the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

Unveiling More Professional Master’s Programs

Provost Brennan stands among the faculty leading the new master's programs. Provost James Brennan stands among the faculty leading the new master’s programs: From left, Binh Tran and Biprodas Dutta (materials science and engineering); Venigalla Rao (biotechnology); Ian Pegg (nuclear environmental protection); and Andrew Abela (business analysis).

CUA is continuing the process of unveiling new professional master’s degree programs. Among those that will launch during the fall 2010 semester are programs in business, biotechnology, materials science and nuclear environmental protection.

“We have carefully studied market trends and have developed programs that represent career paths that are growing in the greater D.C. area and beyond,” says CUA Provost James Brennan. “In keeping with the university’s strategic plan, since 2008 we have launched or made preparations to introduce more than 10 new graduate degrees, certificates and specializations, most of them tailored to working professionals.”

Master of Science in Business Analysis: This one-year full-time degree program is designed as a bridge for recent non-business graduates wishing to begin careers in business, government or the nonprofit world. The program will match students with mentors in the business field and give them the tools needed to compete with business majors for that critical first job.

The M.S.B.A. features a unique curriculum based on Catholic social teaching and the belief that commerce is a service to society.

“What business leaders are so desperately seeking today are honest, hard-working team players — men and women of uncompromising integrity,” says Andrew Abela, chair of business and economics. This new program will seek to respond to that need. For more information, visit

Master of Science in Biotechnology: This program will prepare its recipients for an expanding number of jobs in biotechnology. One think tank projects that nationwide biotechnology employment will grow by 1.6 percent each year through 2014.

The biotechnology field offers career opportunities in pharmaceutical development, agriculture, research laboratories, medical device development and environmental remediation.

The program can be completed part time in two or more years and will incorporate hands-on scientific research through internships with biotechnology companies and government agencies. In addition, CUA is offering a five-year combined B.S. degree in biology/ M.S. degree in biotechnology. For further information, visit

Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering: Many fields of science and engineering are concerned with materials selection and design. As a result, this degree program is expected to draw a diversity of full- and part-time students interested in enhancing their careers.

Offered by the School of Engineering in close collaboration with the School of Arts and Sciences, the program will emphasize advances in existing and emerging technologies in five areas: nanotechnology; biomaterials; magnetic and optical materials; glasses, ceramics and metallurgy; and processing/fabrication and instrumentation. Full-time students will be able to obtain this master’s degree in one year, part timers in two years. For more information, visit

Master of Science in Nuclear Environmental Protection: Societal concern about energy sustainability and global warming has led to renewed focus on nuclear power, now being touted as one of the more promising near-term, low-carbon energy sources. This U.S. “nuclear renaissance” has led to the need to train additional nuclear professionals.

As part of a government effort to bolster America’s nuclear education infrastructure, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission awarded CUA’s Vitreous State Laboratory $240,000 to develop the curriculum for this new degree. The one-year program, which can also be completed part time in two to three years, focuses on the nuclear fuel cycle, waste management and environmental protection.

Nuclear environmental protection has long been VSL’s vocation and, over the past decade, the laboratory has received more than $70 million dollars in sponsored research and development funding for the transformation and safe storage of nuclear waste. Students will participate in research at VSL or — via an internship — at a private company or government entity. For more information, visit

Other New Master’s Programs: The menu of other new professional master’s programs includes the following: city and regional planning; sustainable architectural design; library leadership and management; literacy, language and technology; management (with specialization tracks in federal acquisition and contract management, leadership, human resource management, professional communication and sport management); and human resource management (with specialization tracks in HR generalist and federal HR).

Medieval and Byzantine Program Turns 40

Recently published Medieval and Byzantine faculty books

For four decades, Catholic University has been advancing knowledge of the medieval world and its cultures through a formal program of medieval and Byzantine studies. To celebrate the milestone, CUA’s Center for Medieval and Byzantine Studies is hosting special events to promote understanding of the medieval period.

To kick off the 40th anniversary, the center hosted a book party in December featuring 15 faculty members who talked about their recently published books.

The celebration continues this year with a four-lecture series by former directors of the center. That series concludes with an April 21 roundtable discussion by six faculty members on “The State of Medieval Studies: Some Disciplinary Perspectives.”

CUA’s Medieval and Byzantine Studies Program was organized in 1969 under the direction of an interdepartmental committee in order to facilitate advanced research into the medieval period in subject areas that require a multidisciplinary background. The Center for Medieval and Byzantine Studies was established in 1997, creating office and meeting-room space for the program and bringing together faculty from the schools of arts and sciences, theology and religious studies, philosophy, canon law and music.

Today, more than 40 faculty members contribute to the center, which offers undergraduate and graduate studies.

Participation from various schools within the university “allows students and faculty to cross divisions that sometimes separate people,” says Lourdes Alvarez, director of the center and associate professor of modern languages and literatures. The center “is a place that still understands the importance of the medieval world and all its complexity and contradictions.”

“Catholic University has one of the largest, richest concentrations of faculty expertise in every branch of medieval studies in all of North America, and that fact was a principal reason why I came to CUA to join the faculty many years ago,” says Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences L.R. Poos, a scholar of medieval history. “This celebration of the 40th anniversary of the founding of Medieval and Byzantine Studies coincides with a very considerable reinvigoration of the program, including strategic planning and revisions of its undergraduate and master’s programs.”

The undergraduate major in medieval and Byzantine studies was revamped in 2009, enabling students to focus on the medieval West (with Latin as their major language), Byzantium (studying Greek) or the medieval Islamic world (studying Arabic). A new gateway course for undergraduate majors and minors, “Medieval Pathways,” made its debut in the spring 2010 semester, with four faculty members team-teaching the class. The course includes a module on manuscripts and the culture of the book, a module on Vikings, and a module on the interplay between Christians, Muslims and Jews in medieval Spain.

Mysterious Rembrandt Found

Other artworks exhibited in the May Gallery

The Rembrandt Etching

In 1998, just a few months after Father David O’Connell became president of CUA, he opened the bathroom closet in his office area in Nugent Hall looking for paper towels.

“I found the paper towels,” he recalls, “but as I was closing the cabinet door, I noticed on the bottom shelf under some junk, a picture frame jutting out. I bent down, pulled out the frame and discovered an etching that looked familiar to me.”

It looked like a Rembrandt. In fact, Rembrandt’s name was written on it, along with an inscription in French on the back saying, “the bust of an old man with a great beard seen about most of the face … His head a little perched gives him the attitude of a man who sleeps.”

Just last year, CUA consulted a specialist in prints and publications who confirmed that the 4 ½-by-5-inch etching was made by the world-famous 17th-century Dutch painter. However, since hundreds of Rembrandt’s etchings have been preserved and since the one in CUA’s possession isn’t one of the master’s well-known works, it isn’t worth a king’s ransom.

Initially Father O’Connell had no idea how the etching came to be located in the bathroom closet. But he now believes that the Rembrandt may have been acquired by Monsignor James Magner, a former vice rector of the university and director of the university press, who may have subsequently donated it to CUA. Father O’Connell speculates that the etching was taken off the wall and placed in the closet while painting and other renovations were under way in preparation for his move into Nugent Hall as CUA’s 14th president.

Though some mystery will continue to surround the Rembrandt discovery, the university hasn’t had any doubts about the benefit of taking advantage of the discovery for educational purposes.

From Jan. 11 to May 24 of this year, the university is exhibiting the etching and other artworks in the May Gallery of the John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library. Titled “Fine Lines: Discovering Rembrandt and Other Old Masters at Catholic University,” the exhibition includes several other drawings, etchings, engravings and woodcut prints, all part the university’s Museum Collection. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Catholic University art professors have incorporated the exhibition into their courses, and all CUA students have been invited to create their own artworks inspired by the exhibition, with a prize to be given for the best entry. The students’ works are scheduled to be displayed from April 19 to May 24 in CUA’s Salve Regina Gallery.

South Campus Development Approved

Plan for South Campus

On Dec. 21, the Washington, D.C., Zoning Commission gave final approval to a plan submitted by a firm working with CUA to redevelop the university’s South Campus. On the nine acres along Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street, N.E., that are currently home to Conaty, Spalding and Spellman halls, Abdo Development will build 761 residential units and 85,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space in buildings up to six stories high. Plans also call for a public square with a 70-foot-tall clock tower and an arts walk.

“The development of our South Campus will transform the area surrounding the front entrance to the university,” says Father David O’Connell, university president. “It will bring enormous benefits not only to CUA but also to our neighbors in the Brookland community.”

Following the spring 2010 semester, the university will vacate the three residence halls and begin the process of applying for permits to demolish them.

South Campus rendering

CUA Community Discusses Accreditation Self-Study

How should Catholic University enhance its undergraduate experience? What are some of the ways that CUA can retain exemplary faculty? How can the university increase the diversity of its student population?

These questions and others were raised by CUA faculty, staff and students during a series of town hall meetings devoted to discussion about Catholic University’s self-study report, which is a key part of the university’s 10-year accreditation review by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The meetings, held in January in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, reflected “the importance of the university community’s role” in the accreditation process, said James Greene, dean of graduate studies and co-chair of CUA’s self-study task force.

In February, CUA submitted its 171-page self-study to a Middle States team of evaluators — faculty and administrators from peer institutions — who will visit CUA from April 11 through 14 to talk to students, faculty and staff, ask for their assessment of the university, and verify the self-study’s conclusions. The Middle States Commission evaluates all universities in D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware every 10 years before deciding whether to reaccredit them.

Shavaun Wall, associate vice president for academic planning and self-study co-chair, said she expects that at the end of the April visit, evaluation team chair Antoine M. Garibaldi (who is president of Gannon University, a Catholic institution in Erie, Pa.) will provide feedback to CUA administrators about his team’s findings and its response to the university’s self-study. His team’s report will then be submitted to the Middle States Commission for review and a decision on reaccreditation for CUA. The commission is expected to render its decision by the end of the year.

The CUA task force of 145 faculty, staff and students has been working for the past two years on the self-study, which addresses how the university meets the Middle States Commission’s standards. The report also documents the university’s progress in five areas: improving undergraduate education; enhancing support for graduate students; introducing new professional graduate programs; bringing in more research funding from foundations, corporations and the government; and designing a strategy for strengthening CUA’s financial base.

University Staff Stands Up to “Snowmageddon”

Thank you sign from the students
Lunch hosted by Father O'Connell

When two back-to-back blizzards dumped more than 2 feet of snow on Washington in early February, classes were cancelled for six days. But more than 2,000 resident students were cared for throughout the “Snowpocalypse.” On Feb. 18, Father O’Connell hosted a lunch for 180 facilities, food service and public safety personnel to thank them for their service to the students under extraordinary circumstances.