By Gabriela Leskur ‘16
Alumni Association Writing Intern
In a mere 39 weeks, Notre Dame’s iconic Morris Inn was torn down and rebuilt—reimagined for a new era while maintaining the heart of its history.
Called the “living room” of the University, the Morris Inn has gathered Domers and visitors together as a family since 1952. As the needs of the University have grown and changed, the Morris Inn needed to be expanded and renovated.
“The Morris Inn is still the warm, friendly place everyone knows and remembers,” says Megan Akatu ’04, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Morris Inn and Notre Dame Conference Center. “It has just been re-imagined, with modern updates and expanded facilities that today’s hotel guests expect and appreciate. It’s brand new, but still has that same Morris Inn spirit.”
The Morris Inn is more than just a hotel—it is a gathering place over food and drinks for old friends and new, a cherished venue for weddings and special events, and a great place to hold meetings and conferences. Its sales staff also supports the Notre Dame Conference Center at McKenna Hall. “Everything we do here goes back to support the academic mission of the university,” says Akatu.
The Morris Inn is an important hotel and conference facility for a world-class University. Now its new face matches its important role at the University. But as always, at the heart of it all, the spirit of Notre Dame and the sense of family remains.
“For us, it was important to try to keep the same staff. People come in and ask for some of our employees by name. We wanted to keep that sense of continuity and family that our guests came to expect of the Morris Inn,” says Akatu. But closing down a hotel for 10 months and trying to keep the same staff was not an easy task.
Before the renovation, management met extensively with Human Resources and other departments throughout the University to provide Morris Inn employees alternatives during the 10 months of construction. Over 200 people make their living working at the Morris Inn.
“There were no layoffs at all during the construction period. 43 Morris Inn employees were redeployed and worked in a different department on campus for 10 months,” said Lisa Yates, human resources consultant. “The Morris Inn maintained their pay even in the new department and there were no changes in benefits. Anyone who had a job at the Morris Inn received a job after it re-opened, and it is very Notre Dame in how we treat our people, how we take care of our people.”
Akatu highlighted a few employees who have been central to the spirit of the Morris Inn—and will continue to be central in the future.
“Shannen McKaskle, who’s been the front desk manager for 20 years, knows all of the regular faces, knows exactly what they like, what type of room they like,” explained Akatu. “She’s a very good example of still having that familiar face at the front desk.”
Patrick “Murph” Murphy, who began working at the Morris Inn at the age of 15 as a bus boy, has been the primary bartender for many years.
“People have called it Murph’s bar—guests don’t even know what the name of the bar is,” said Akatu. “Murph is the first person that people look for when they walk into the Morris Inn. ‘Where’s Murph?’ they ask. I always reply, reassuringly, ‘He’s right there! He didn’t go anywhere.’ Individuals like Murph continuing at the new Morris Inn helps maintain the familiarity and heart of the place.”
The renewed identity of the Morris Inn—in conjunction with the Notre Dame Conference Center at McKenna Hall—beckons new educational, professional, and personal events to take place right on campus. At the same time, it also beckons everyone back to the “living room” of campus to see an old friend, to celebrate a wedding, or perhaps, just to get a good night’s sleep.
Fun Facts About the Morris Inn Renovation Project
- 321,438 individual items ordered
- 60 different types of print collateral from “Silence is Golden” door hangers to menus to stationery to instructions on how to use the in-room safe.
- Original Opening Day: August 29
- Actual Opening Day: August 19
- Non-furniture deliveries totaled 32 box trucks
- 150 guest rooms, 18 of which are suites
- 25 different floor plans