A closer look at Farrell Hall

Construction on Farrell Hall has been ongoing throughout the semester. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

Last year when the name of Cardinal Farrell Hall was first announced, President Keefe said that “Each great campus features an iconic building that holds special significance to all who pass through its gates … Ours will be Cardinal Farrell Hall — an enduring reminder of Bishop Farrell’s dedication to and inspiring support of UD.”

With all due respect to our president, I find two things surprising about his statement:  firstly that the “iconic building” that is to represent our campus is not a library or another traditionally necessary structure; and secondly that this building will be named after someone who has less connection to the university than any of the other buildings to date. A more appropriate namesake might be Dr. Robert Yale.

Consider the names of other buildings on campus: Madonna, Haggerty, Clark, Jerome — each of these buildings is named after someone who is significant to Catholicism at large (such as Mary or Jerome) or someone significant to UD in particular (such as Cowan-Blakley or Clark). By naming our buildings after such figures, not only do we preserve the memory of great men and women who might otherwise be forgotten — such as Zachary Clark — but we also signal the kinds of men and women we expect our students to aspire to be.

It’s harder to understand Cardinal Farrell’s contribution to the university. According to the UD website, “Farrell, an ardent supporter of the University of Dallas, has played a significant role in the recent growth and revitalization of North Texas’ only Catholic university.” But what does that mean?

The university’s press releases, which are often unsparing with self-congratulation, are stingy with particulars regarding Farrell’s contributions to the university. Farrell is admittedly responsible for leading the diocese out of debt, but are financial contributions to Catholic education in general enough to constitute the naming of a building at our university in particular? Board membership constitutes campus involvement, but is it enough to warrant the naming of an entire building? But if the choice of “Farrell Hall” for our new building seems merely random when considered by itself, it  makes even less sense when we measure Cardinal Farrell’s place in  our community against Dr. Yale’s.

In 2014, Dr. Yale was named by Student Programming as the “Most Interesting Professor at UD”; in 2017, he was nominated for the Piper Professor Award, which, according to UD’s website, “is given annually by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation to 10 educators in the state of Texas in recognition of their superior teaching at the college level.”

In addition to official recognition, Dr. Yale was beloved by students and colleagues alike; the school was devastated when in April of 2017 he died from stomach cancer. Even I, who never took a single one of Dr. Yale’s classes, can attest to this; I don’t believe I ever will forget the day when Dr. Crider, in the middle of presenting a class on Shakespeare’s comedies, asked us to pray for Dr. Yale, and wept. Judging by the blog he kept as he battled his cancer, Dr. Yale faced the pain and indignity forced upon him by his disease with strength, hope, good cheer and godliness. A model teacher, a model husband, a model father, and a model Christian, Dr. Yale is a man to be remembered, and our new “front door” could do worse than be graced by his good name.

Note: This post has been edited since its posting to properly include Dr. Robert Yale’s religion.


  1. Hey Jack- great article! I agree. Small note: Dr. Yale wasn’t Catholic. He was still a man of great faith and attended the Northwest Bible Church regularly.

  2. I’m glad you published this article, Jack. This issue really needs to be brought to the forefront. I sent in an article to the University News early last month, but they refused to publish it since, due to close connections of mine in the diocese, I am unable to publish my name. Here is the article for those who are interested; based on some of the content of your article I think you might have already read it.

    – Laocoon (laocoonsonofacoetes at gmail.com)
    An Alumnus of the University of Dallas

    # Rethinking Farrell Hall

    An iconic building deserves a worthy name. That is why ours should not be Cardinal Farrell Hall.
    Because the opening of this building is fast approaching, and since I failed to pen anything when the name was first announced almost a year ago, I was hesitant to publish this article. However, the shocking lack of concern over the sudden naming of two buildings on campus and the real danger posed in this action impels me, by my honor, to act lest this deed be permitted to pass silently.

    Take a walk around our campus, and you will find a wide array of names adorning the colleges and imprinted in the buildings. Haggerty, Haggar, Cowan, Blakely, Maher, Gorman, Jerome, Madonna, Albert the Great, Clark, Satish and Yasmin Gupta, Braniff, and, until recently, Lynch: these names and many more are set into the brick of this oasis of study.

    Why do we name our schools, our places of study, and our dormitory homes after these men and women? All, save one, of the schools are named after donors, individuals who worked with the school and gave millions of dollars for the sake of a true liberal arts education. The one exception is Constantin, named after the son of a major donor, who took a bullet on Okinawa trying to save a wounded comrade. Many of the buildings also bear the names of the founders and major funders who made this school possible. Among the exceptions is the Cowan-Blakely Memorial Library, which now includes the name of the couple who made the Core what it is today. Most of the dorms are named after saints, and not just any saints, but a sample of the great and learned Doctors of the Church. Two of the exceptions are Madonna (and who can contest granting the Blessed Virgin a building on a Catholic campus) and Clark, named after a remarkable student of the Class of 2016 who died tragically in a car accident. Founders, donors, saints, and scholars, our school bears upon its physical structures the names of those to whom we are in debt, for funding, for forming, and for a legacy.
    Should current plans remain unchanged, within the next year there will be two buildings on campus bearing Kevin Cardinal Farrell’s name: Cardinal Farrell Hall and Cardinal Farrell Student Center at Holy Trinity Seminary. Currently, the only person who has the honor of being the namesake for more than one building is Braniff, who’s name on the Tower, the Mall, and the graduate building is in recognition of the key role he played in the founding of this school.

    Clearly, Cardinal Farrell is being given a great honor, to be listed among our founders, donors, saints, and scholars, not once but twice. It is an honor that has received a surprising lack of discussion. In our school’s sixty year history, it has granted these honors to those who have furthered the cause of our education and those worthy of imitation. We must not lessen the honors bestowed on these men and women in the past by failing to properly vet those receiving the honor in the present.

    However, Cardinal Farrell is not a founder. He is not a donor. As of the writing of this article, he is still among the quick, and therefore certainly not a saint. As General Administrator of the Legion of Christ in the early 80’s, he did oversee seminaries and schools, but he is certainly no scholar of the caliber of the Cowans or any Doctor of the Church. Only one other bishop has his name engraved in one of our buildings: Bishop Gorman, the first chancellor and one of the founders of this school.

    Therefore, what reason do we have of granting such a lofty honor, not once, but twice to the former bishop of Dallas? What has he done benefiting the University to the extent that we should christen buildings with his name? For that matter, what has he done in Dallas that merits even consideration for receiving a building to his name?

    Bishop Farrell was called to Dallas ten years ago to succeed the scandal-ridden tenure of the retiring Bishop Grahmann. In the aftermath of the scandals, his initial primary goal was to restore the Diocese to a position of financial stability. Due to his efforts, the Diocese is now financially stable.

    And that is the sum total of the good Bishop Farrell has done for Dallas.

    In my four years of undergraduate studies, I never heard of Bishop Farrell interacting with the students save on the graduation stage. He never pushed for improvements at the University. In fact, the only action of Bishop Farrell that even affected the campus was his push for gun bans across the Diocese (see his blog article, entitled “A Response to Open Carry”) and his squabbles with Bishop Olsen of Fort Worth which led to the depopulation of Fort Worth seminarians from the student body.

    By any measure, Bishop Farrell has done quite literally nothing to improve Catholic liberal arts education on our campus, but can he be considered a person worthy of imitation? After all, while Lt. Constantin was the son of donors and Zach Clark was only a student at the time of his death, their names appear on our campus since they are both considered virtuous men, worthy of imitation. Could Bishop Farrell be counted in this category?

    Throughout his tenure as bishop of Dallas, Bishop Farrell has never been accused of being a man of extraordinary virtue. Other praises have been lavished upon him, but never that of any extraordinary Christlike virtue. To name an example, his final interview in Dallas with County Judge Clay Jenkins does not show a man of deep humility. There is no question that the bishop must possess some virtue, but the honor of the namesake of our campus’ front door, if not held by someone who benefited the University, requires nothing less than extraordinary virtue.

    From the analysis above, there is clearly no reason to name any building after Kevin Cardinal Farrell, so why is his name going up twice on our campus? Holy Trinity Seminary can only answer for itself, but the sole reason I can comprehend why the University of Dallas should grant such a prominent building to his name, and I pray that I am wrong, is purely political motivations. I fear that the only decent explanation for this decision is his new title of “Cardinal;” the new name of the building was announced disconcertingly close to Pope Francis’ announcement of intent to elevate Bishop Farrell. If this is true, and we shall see how the administration responds, then this is one of the most disgusting lows this illustrious school has sunk to.

    This new hall, standing next to the Braniff Memorial Tower, will be the front door to our campus, “an iconic building that holds special significance to all who pass through its gates.” Every visitor to our campus will pass through this building, and its prominent location means it will represent our school to the world. When freshmen and visitors ask whom this building was named after, we should be able to proudly tell them of a name that represents our school’s vision. Therefore, this hall, more than almost any other building, deserves a name that encompasses who we are and what we value. Shall they know us as men and women who value truth, justice, and virtue, or should they think of us as people who just want to curry favor with political and ecclesiastical hierarchies?

    There is no dearth of more fitting names to bestow upon the new hall. Name it after a hero from the epics on “the anger of Peleus’ son and its devastation” or “a man and arms.” Name it after one of the philosophers who shaped our Western culture and who are read multiple times by every student. Name it after one of our longtime professors, such as the Cowans, who shaped the school. If you want someone who is still alive, name it after Bishop Duca, an alumnus of the University, and the Duca family, who were the driving force in pulling Holy Trinity Seminary out of the scandals (though the Duca name would probably be more fitting for the seminary athletic center). Name it after Karol Wojtyla/St John Paul II or Josef Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, two great scholars who are also regularly read in our classes. Name it after our Mother, the Theotokos, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or another Doctor of the Church, one of those thirty-six who’s writings have had a profound effect on the Bark of Peter. Or even name it after Lynch, another of our founders and major donors whose iconic auditorium was recently leveled to make way for this new edifice.

    Kevin Cardinal Farrell is neither a founder, nor a donor, neither a saint, nor a scholar. He has not demonstrated a character worthy of imitation. Other than serving as chancellor ex officio, he has no known relation to this school. There is no reason that his name should stand on our campus in any place of honor, least of all upon the name of our campus’ new front to the world.

    As a proud alumus of this school and a firm believer in its mission, I write to entreat the student and alumni bodies to act. It is not right for us to stand on the sidelines in ignorance and in silence while our school becomes intimately associated with a name that has nothing to do with itself or its values. I have presented a number of alternatives for the entrance to our school. Obtain input from the faculty, bring it to a vote of the student body, even include the alumni association; let us decide whose name should best represent our beloved University of Dallas to the world, lest our haven of high ideals be desecrated and honor stolen from our founders, donors, saints, and scholars.


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