The Donnelly building was built on the land between the Kieran Gate House and the Bech family home. The Bech family home served as a Novitiate for the Marist Brothers as well as a residence for the Brothers who volunteered to help build Donnelly Hall.
The construction of this building was a mammoth task considering the fact that the workers were schoolteachers who were untrained in construction work. Brother Nilus Donnelly, for whom the building is named, directed all the work and operated the heavy machinery.
After three summers of hard labor, the building took its final shape in 1962. It was at this time that Marian College, as it was called then, began accepting resident lay students. Since there was no dormitory, a last minute modification of the Donnelly building was made for this purpose. At that time, there was a total of eight resident students.
Donnelly was the main classroom building for the next 10 years. In 1985, Donnelly was renovated. The ramp surrounding the building became part of the interior of the building. External walls were built and the rooms, which were on the outside of the building, were enlarged by absorbing the space occupied by the ramp. Over the years, Donnelly Hall has served as headquarters for nearly every college activity. It currently houses the School of Science, science labs, the Fashion Program, photography darkrooms, lecture halls, classrooms, administrative offices including Security, the Registrar, Financial Aid, Information Technology, Human Resources, the computer store, a coffee shop, and the Copy Center. (Source: Building & Place Names)
Donnelly Hall was built by Brother Nilus Vincent with the help of an army of volunteer Marist Brothers. For three summers, these Marist Brothers laid aside their teaching duties and traveled to the Marist College campus where they worked, slept and worked some more.
Brother Nilus who designed and supervised the construction of Donnelly personally operated the bulldozer, crane and other heavy construction equipment. His first task was to survey the property and then to level the mound of earth that existed where Donnelly now stands. Donnelly Hall is named for Brother Nilus Vincent Donnelly.
After the blessing of the site by Cardinal Spellman in 1958, the Marist Brothers manually dug the holes for the foundation pillars. They had to overcome many obstacles, one of which was the water seepage from an underground stream into the foundation holes. This water had to be pumped out and directed away from the work site. Brother Nilus' foreman, Brother Edward "Eddie Mike" Michael seemed to be everywhere directing the day's work activities.
Each day a discarded hearse was used to transport refreshments to the thirsty working brothers. A cluster of nearby trees provided them with a rest break during the hot, humid, summer days.
Slowly the foundation and concrete walls were poured. The prefabricated wooden roof beams weighing several tons each were lifted into place by Brother Nilus' crane and secured by the brothers. Donnelly began to take shape. (Source: Marist College History: Donnelly Hall)
Donnelly was the culmination of the Marist Brothers' building program. From the hand digging of the foundation pillars to the cement reinforcing rod crews, the army of brother amateurs showed how their building skills had improved. Who can forget Brothers Nilus and Edward "Eddie Mike" Michael marshaling, each day, their army of brothers for a constructive assault on the Donnelly work project! (Source: Marist College History: Donnelly Hall)
Dr. Stephen (1901-1998) Dobo, and his wife Estelle Effron (1908-2003) donated an unusual piece of sculpture to Marist College; it is on permanent display in the Dobo Sculpture Garden, Donnelly Hall Atrium. After Estelle died, a memorial service honoring both Steven and Estelle was held at the Atrium.