UD building honors WWI dead
In 1922, UD began raising money for an even larger memorial to WWI dead – the central campus building that came to be known as Memorial Hall.
The fundraising campaign included a massive parade in Wilmington designed to raise awareness of the effort. UD students rode a special train to Wilmington and were joined by thousands of school children as they marched to Rodney Square. That event alone raised $34,000.
People from around the state joined in the fundraising effort, including Wilmington High School students, who donated $3,700; Newark High School students, who raised “quite a tidy sum” with a candy sale; and prisoners at the New Castle County Workhouse, who pledged $25.
Dubbed Memorial Hall, the building opened in 1925. The first building to serve both the men’s and women’s campus, it was UD’s library until the Morris Library opened in 1963. Memorial Hall now houses the English Department.
In the lobby of Memorial Hall is the Book of the Dead, each page of which lists the name of a fallen solider. Every morning, ROTC members ceremoniously turn one page of the book.
The book was supposed to include a biography of each solider, but that part of the book was never completed.
Some 90 years later, though, English professor Bernard McKenna and his students began to fulfill that promise, combing through military records, old newspapers and other documents to find out what they could about the fallen soldiers.
“What we have today is a start,” George Miller, associate chair of the English Department, said in 2016. “I doubt we’ll ever be able to fulfill the original promise, but it would be a fitting tribute to those who served and gave up their lives, to compile the life histories of those who sacrificed so much.”