When Monsignor Dorance Foley took the reigns as president of Loras College in 1956, he had an eye on expanding the campus and improving facilities for the benefit of the students. He first set his sights on building a library building suitable for a collection with a good reputation. Since 1935, the library materials were housed in different areas of Keane Hall, none of which were ideal.
In 1958, President Foley presented a plan to the Board of Regents to build a library at the north end of Keane Field. It would contain offices, reading rooms for 400 students, a faculty reading lounge, conference and seminar rooms and work exhibition areas, and space for 175,000 volumes and a proportionate number of magazines and newspapers. With board approval, the construction began in July 1959.
Harry W. Wahlert, president of the Dubuque Packing company and member of the board of regents since 1947, provided financial support for the effort and became the first person on campus other than former College chancellors to have a building named for him – the Wahlert Memorial Library.
At the announcement of the name, Archbishop Leo Binz said, “In the selection of this name, the College makes appropriate acknowledgment of a substantial contribution by the Wahlert Foundation which has made possible the construction of the new library, as well as Mr. Wahlter’s personal interest in the College and his support of the program.”
The new library opened for the start of the 1960-61 academic year and was dedicated by Archbishop Binz as part of Homecoming festivities on November 6, 1960. That same month, the Iowa Library Association recognized Loras College’s collection as the state’s oldest academic library.
Unique in its design, Wahlert Hall is a two-story structure in the shape of an asymmetrical cross built of red Tudor brick. Situated in the center of upper campus, it overlooks the Rock Bowl stadium.
The building served as the campus library for more than 40 years until 2003, when the Academic Resource Center opened its doors. Renamed Wahlert Hall, it was remodeled into office and classroom space to house the Education Department.