A (love?!) letter to Pacelli

Grace Sherban on freshman move in day, 2021

Grace Sherban

Grace Sherban on freshman move in day, 2021

Grace Sherban, Campus Editor

The first time I stepped foot in Pacelli Hall was during my freshman orientation back in June of 2021. A group of students and parents were going on a brief tour of campus and the freshman dorm they showed us was Pacelli. I’ll never forget the look of disgust that spread over my mother’s face when we looked around the building and saw a room. With my luck, she said, that would be the dorm I would call home for my freshman year at JCU.

A mother’s intuition is never wrong. Flash forward to later in the summer when I saw the email containing rooming assignments. My stomach hit the floor: 133 Pacelli Hall.

Aug. 25 arrived sooner than I would have hoped as my parents and I packed up the car and drove the hour to JCU’s campus. As SWAT leaders swarmed my parent’s car in the Pacelli parking lot, all of my belongings were quickly brought into my new home. 

That first night was unpleasant to say the least. I did not think to bring a fan so I was hot, miserable and very tired during Streak Week. During that weird, transition period when classes finally started, I began to develop a routine which involved hanging out with new friends in the lounges of Pacelli. Every person that walked by more often than not popped their head in to say hello or sat down for a while to talk. Pacelli may be smelly but the community that has grown there is anything but that. 

Adam Gilbert, the Area Coordinator for Pacelli, says, “throughout the year it was great to see the residents of Pacelli Hall being open to supporting the entire JCU community whether it was commuter students looking for a cool place to hang out, staff working in the counseling center or facilities department, or other students from across campus coming to hangout at the programs we had throughout the year!”

Bri Callow ’25 and Maia Echols ’25 in a Pacelli lounge (Grace Sherban)

Community is an integral aspect of the John Carroll experience and forming a community within the residential hall is quintessential to forming connections in other areas on campus. If you aren’t comfortable where you live, it’s hard to feel comfortable in other areas of one’s life. 

Pacelli SRA Miranda Shetzer ‘22 commented, “upon first hearing the news, the thought of moving from a floor of primarily upperclassmen to a first year community was terrifying. However, after living and working on the first floor, I began to love Pacelli and all its quirks as well as the wonderful and caring residents.” 


People are very quick to point out Pacelli’s flaws but they hardly ever acknowledge that Pacelli is, arguably, the most conveniently placed dorm on campus. It takes 115 steps to get to the threshold of the ‘Tween from the back door of Pacelli while it takes 235 steps if you live in Campion. In the middle of the blizzard, these extra 120 steps can seem like miles. 

Non-Pacelli resident, Julia Kampas ‘25 says, “I think it has a good location. It’s close to everything and makes you feel more a part of campus than Campion does.”

Pacelli RA, Adam Diefendorff ‘23, told The Carroll News, “I think between the exquisite location on campus along with the homey feel, Pacelli is up to par with the other freshman dorms.” 

Not only is Pacelli at the epicenter of campus, the history of the building is another fascinating aspect that is commonly overlooked. According to a Carroll News article published in May of 1952, the name “Pacelli” was personally approved by Pope Pius XII and it was the first building in the United States to be christened with this name.

Pacelli resident, Bri Callow ‘25, said, “Everyone said I was dealt the worst hand because it is the worst freshman dorm but I met all of my best friends in this building. It has a lot of meaning to me in that regard.”

Pacelli hall during construction (JCU Collected)
Pacelli residents in 1952 (JCU Collected)

In another Carroll News article published in October of 1952, Donald Havlock goes through the daily routine of the average Pacelli Hall resident. The building’s first residents spent time between classes in the recreation room playing billiards, pingpong, and cards or praying in the Pacelli Chapel. The article emphasizes how “modern” the building was with its new washers, dryer, and television sets. When a resident was hungry, they could head to the “Ye Olde Shack Shoppe” for hot dogs or cake before settling in for the night. As you walk through the halls of Pacelli, it is hard to imagine that 70 years of memories have taken place within these walls. 

Pacelli, as it exists at this moment, may not be the most modern place to live between the paper thin walls, questionable bathrooms and an elevator that looks like it hasn’t had work done on it since being built. Despite all of these qualities, somehow the building just exudes this air of confidence and welcoming thanks in part to the inhabitants within. 

“The old building has a lot of characters inside and out,” Shetzer pointed out. “The elevator looks like it is straight out of a horror movie but somehow it fits.” 

Another interesting fact about Pacelli is that some of the money that was donated for the construction of the building belonged to Ettore “Hector” Boiardi also known as Chef Boyarardee. People are currently living in a building that was built thanks to the generous donation from the king of canned pasta, what a small world.

Names of those who donated to the building, Hector Boirardi being one of them (Grace Sherban)

As my freshman year comes to a close, I think the transition from saying that I “live” in Pacelli to saying that I “lived” there once will be a hard adjustment that I do not relish in making.  Time will tell if I will ever enter Pacelli again after the conclusion of this semester but when I pass the building, I think I will be reminded of all the people and moments that impacted me the most. 



Yes, the building has flaws (I’m specifically thinking of the bathrooms, elevator and printer) but choosing to only focus on the negatives is a bad attitude to have. I will remember the people, floor programs and moments made in not just Pacelli but any other residential hall on campus.

With the remodel of the hall scheduled to start soon, Pacelli is going to change for the better. The future residents will be able to enjoy nicer amenities while also, hopefully, fostering relationships with their new neighbors. As time goes by, the events and friendships made will only add to the collection of memories that exist inside those walls. In the end, stay smelly, Pacelli. 

A dedication plaque located in the lobby of Pacelli (Grace Sherban)