Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s alumni donate new doors to Le Mans Hall
Olivia Jackson | Friday, January 23, 2015
The Le Mans doors, once the entrance to Le Mans Hall at Saint Mary’s, will be repaired and placed in the parlor of Haggar Hall.
A new set of doors will welcome students and faculty this semester in Le Mans Hall at Saint Mary’s. Notre Dame alum Robert O’Grady and his wife Beverly, a graduate of Saint Mary’s, donated the doors.
Special assistant to the SMC president Susan Dampeer said she worked with the O’Gradys throughout the process of creating the doors.
“[Mr. O’Grady] loved Le Mans Hall but was very upset about the condition of our front doors,” Dampeer said. “He and I had talked about doing something about them but then he died unexpectedly. His widow Beverly, who knew about those plans, wanted to complete them in his honor.”
Dampeer said Robert O’Grady was born and raised in Argentina. It was there that his family became acquainted with Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., who convinced the O’Grady family to send their son to Notre Dame and their five daughters to Saint Mary’s.
Dampeer said O’Grady was a Renaissance man with an extensive knowledge of art. He and his wife were donors to both Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame, particularly to projects at the Snite Museum.
A valued tradition for Saint Mary’s graduates is exiting Le Mans through the front doors at the beginning of the graduation ceremony, Dampeer said. O’Grady especially wanted the doors to shine during that important occasion for the graduates. Senior Kelsie Plesac was excited to hear about the new doors for commencement.
“I think it is a very nice indicator of the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s family, that this is something [O’Grady] felt he needed to do for Saint Mary’s students,” Plesac said.
The old Le Mans doors were original to the building and had been in use since 1925.
“Weather had taken a major toll on them and they could not be repaired adequately for outdoor use,” Dampeer said. “The old doors are being repaired and we hope to put them in Haggar Hall in the parlor if they can be retrofitted for that space.”
The new doors were hand-carved by Verlin Miller, a local woodworker who has restored doors for Notre Dame in the past. Susan Dampeer said the new doors were constructed in the exact same way as the old doors were in 1925 — by hand and with the same tools.
“The building has an old look to it, so an exact replica is nice because it doesn’t take away from the character of the building,” Plesac said. “It just revamps it.”
Beverly O’Grady resides in New York and will be returning to Saint Mary’s in April to see the doors for the first time, Dampeer said.