July 19, 2012

Jeanette Grider

Doris O’Donnell 1930-2012

Doris O'Donnell, the former executive director of alumni relations and special events, died Sunday, July 15. She was 81.

Doris O'Donnell

A member of the SLU community for more than 30 years, Mrs. O'Donnell began her career at the University in 1956 as administrative assistant to Francis O'Reilly, S.J., vice president for University Relations. She was later named executive director of alumni services and special events - a position she held until her retirement in 1988, when she left to care for her aging parents.

Mrs. O'Donnell had a deep commitment to and love for Saint Louis University. In a 1976 Universitas story, she said that for as long as she could remember she wanted to work for the University.

"My father and brother graduated here. But that wasn't the main reason," O'Donnell said. "There's just something about the place."

As the role of development, public relations, event planning and alumni relations grew, so did the scope of Mrs. O'Donnell's job. With the opening of Busch Student Center in 1964, she embraced the role of special events, overseeing everything from ground breakings and building dedications to commencement ceremonies and the installation of presidents to dinner and game promotions for Billiken athletics.

She also was very active with alumni events, organizing hundreds of reunions locally and across the country, and even rounding up doorknobs as momentos when a building on campus was demolished.

"Doris O'Donnell was a pioneer in alumni relations and a legend at Saint Louis University," said Meg Connolly, associate vice president for alumni relations. "She touched the lives of so many alumni, and we are proud to continue her legacy of building strong relationships and connecting our graduates to SLU."

During the Women's Commission 10th anniversary celebration in 1983, Mrs. O'Donnell was honored as a "Woman of the Year." Advancement volunteer and former dean of students Mary Bruemmer, a friend and colleague, reflected on her service to the SLU community.

"She meant so much to so many people during her years as assistant to Father O'Reilly and through the leadership she embraced with such total commitment and dedication," Bruemmer said.

O'Donnell Hall

O'Donnell Hall, a historic Beaux Arts building on Lindell Boulevard built in the late 1800s, is named in honor of Mrs. O'Donnell. The building was purchased by Saint Louis University in 1992 from her son and SLU alumnus Frank O'Donnell, M.D. Today it is the home of the Saint Louis University Museum of Art.

Mrs. O'Donnell is survived by her children: Dr. Frank O'Donnell, Debbie O'Donnell-Swallow, Kathy McCabe-O'Donnell and Mary O'Donnell; grandchildren Colleen O'Donnell-Flores, Dr. Kirk O'Donnell, Grace, Clinton and Lucy O'Donnell, Danielle and Matthew Swallow, Jake, Kate and Luke McCabe O'Donnell and David Noori; great grandchildren Connor, Carson and Peter Flores and Anabella and Declan O'Donnell; and brothers Terry and Kenneth McCauley. She was preceded in death by her parents, Harmon and Sada McCauley, and her sister Patricia Knipe.

Visitation will be held from 3-9 p.m. Friday, July 20, at Kutis South County Chapel, 5255 Lemay Ferry Road (at Butler Hill), St. Louis, Mo. 63129.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 21, at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 4556 Telegraph Road, St. Louis, Mo. 63129.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to The Doris O'Donnell Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Saint Louis University, 1 North Grand Blvd, Room 306, St. Louis, MO 63103.

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