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Renovators expand Inn

Amanda Gray | Monday, October 31, 2011

More than 60 years ago, a Notre Dame Law School graduate donated $1 million to the University to construct the Morris Inn.

In 2013, renovators will finish adding new rooms and updating the venue’s facilities thanks to a $15 million gift from that same donor’s daughter.

University Trustee Emerita Ernestine Raclin, along with other members of her family and the Carmichael Foundation, recently donated the money through the “Spirit of Notre Dame” campaign, according to a University press release.

Raclin’s father, Ernest Morris, funded the original construction of the Inn, which was dedicated in May 1952 after his death.

William Beirne, director of the Morris Inn, said public feedback for the project has been extremely positive.

“They have said it’s been long overdue,” Beirne said. “People are happy to see the Inn stay at the center of our campus. There’s a great affinity for the Morris Inn. It means a lot to a lot of people. This renovation is a great thing for the Inn and the University. It’s a great inn, and this renovation should take care of campus hospitality for the next 25 to 50 years.”

Beirne said the best improvements would be the additional guest rooms and new 300-seat ballroom. The renovations, which will begin in November in 2012, will increase the number of guest rooms from 92 to 138, the release stated.

“This project brings the Morris Inn up to date,” Beirne said. “It brings it within the marketplace, especially for weddings and other special events.”

The lobby and Leahy’s Pub will also be renovated, and all of the plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical systems will be replaced. In addition to the new ballroom, three private dining rooms will be added.

The building is slated to grow from 72,000 to 130,000 square feet upon completion, the release stated. The University will also seek LEED Silver certification for environmentally friendly practices in design and construction of the facility.

University President Fr. John Jenkins said in the release that the gift would allow the University to continue its tradition of hospitality at the Morris Inn.

“The generosity of Ernestine and her family is legendary, both for Notre Dame and in our community, and we are tremendously appreciative of their latest expression of that generosity,” Jenkins said. “This gift will enable us to continue to welcome alumni and visitors in the warm, welcoming style that we always hope is one of Notre Dame’s distinguishing characteristics.”

Morris appealed to the University in 1905 for financial assistance, the release stated. He received a $100 loan and was accepted for legal studies. After his graduation, he worked in law and finance, and in 1917, he founded what developed into the Associates Investment Corporation of America.

Morris, who died in 1951, never saw the completion of the Inn he funded, the release stated. His wife, Ella Morris, saw the finished hotel and served as chair of the Notre Dame Women’s Advisory Council before she passed away in 1969.

Raclin and her family led major campaigns for the University, the release stated.

“Our family has a long and deep emotional bond with the University and with the Morris Inn,” Raclin said in the release. “We are very pleased to have an opportunity to deepen this association and to help ensure that the Inn continues to play a prominent role in the life of the University.

“The Morris Inn has long been a treasure, not just for the Notre Dame community, but for all of Michiana. It is where the community and the campus meet.”