A student exits Dundon-Berchtold Hall, which opened this term at the University of Portland. It houses an ethics institute as well as classrooms, offices and popular study locations. (Adam Guggenheim/University of Portland)
A student exits Dundon-Berchtold Hall, which opened this term at the University of Portland. It houses an ethics institute as well as classrooms, offices and popular study locations. (Adam Guggenheim/University of Portland)

The newest building on the University of Portland campus houses an institute for promoting morals and ethics, a defining mission for the 118-year old Catholic college. 

“At UP, we nurture mind and heart and we help young people discover how to lead a life of meaning and purpose,” said Holy Cross Father Mark Poorman, president of the university. Father Poorman believes Dundon-Berchtold Hall, which opened for the fall term, “will strengthen our efforts to provide a holistic, rigorous and character-focused education to generations of future students.”

Father Poorman calls the $34 million building transformational for a few reasons. It not only changes the look of campus but also fortifies the move to make U.P. a center for ethical reflection, he explained, adding that the effort is vital in this era.

The Dundon-Berchtold Institute for Moral Formation & Applied Ethics, which occupies part of the second floor, offers classes, public events, and student-faculty research partnerships aimed at forming the moral character of students. Projects reflect on ethics in business, science, engineering, education, health care and the arts.

“The faculty have a good take on professional, philosophical and theological points of view,” Father Poorman said. “They consult a lot of sources, including Catholic tradition.”

One of the most popular classes on campus is the Character Project seminar, with Father Poorman as one of the instructors.

Dundon-Berchtold Hall is already one of the most popular gathering spaces on campus. A stately clock tower overlooking a plaza gives the campus a new center. The cathedral-like entry hall leads straight to a study lounge featuring a fireplace.

The gothic design includes environmentally friendly features like automatic window shades and a heat-reflecting roof to regulate temperature. The university is hoping for Gold status from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The 66,000-square foot hall also helps the growing school with a space crisis. It adds 17 classrooms, 35 faculty offices and a dozen gathering areas, including a study lounge with a fireplace.

“We needed to expand or we were going to be in trouble,” Father Poorman said.

The L-shaped building’s 146-seat auditorium is named for Brian Doyle, the late editor of U.P.’s Portland magazine and Catholic Sentinel columnist.  

“Faculty, staff and students have reveled in this beautiful new edifice, taking advantage of excellent classroom, office, conference and study lounge spaces,” said Thomas Greene, university provost and professor. “The smiles on the faces of all who enter say it all.” Greene calls the hall a place where the university can carry on “sacred work.”

The new hall is made with red bricks fashioned to look venerable. “We wanted it to seem it had always been here,” said Jim Ravelli, vice president for operations at U.P. But the infrastructure is cutting edge.

Classrooms include touchscreens, color laser projection and digital white boards with interactive video. The WIFI is beefy with 20G technology and 60 interior and six exterior wireless access points.

Dundon-Berchtold Hall is the place to be in an earthquake, said Ravelli.

The site was the location of Howard Hall, the sometimes creaky gymnasium and recreation center built in 1927 and named after the new Archbishop of Portland, Edward Howard. One of the three original buildings on campus, it hosted CYO grade school basketball starting in the 1930s. It contained a pool where then-president Father Tom Oddo swam late in the evening in the 1980s. Howard Hall was razed in 2017 after it was replaced by a new recreation center across campus.

Chief funding came from Amy Dundon-Berchtold, a member of the U.P. board of regents and a real estate investor, and her husband Jim Berchtold, a member of the class of 1963 and telecom and banking executive. The couple has backed the ethics and moral initiatives, helping start the institute in 2015. Two dozen other benefactors helped on the building, which is designed to promote collaborative learning. 

New York-based Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Soderstrom Architects of Portland teamed up on the design. Portland-based Fortis Construction did the work.

edl@catholicsentinel.org