History of WJU Alma Grace McDonough Health & Recreation Center


Parkersburg resident Alma Grace McDonough, wife of industrialist Bernard McDonough, consistently and generously supported Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU) throughout her life. The bronze commemorative bust of McDonough (located in the foyer of the Alma Grace McDonough Athletic Health and Recreation Center) serves as a symbol of the WJU community's appreciation, and bears the simple words, "A gift of love, a symbol of thanks."

Born in Spencer, West Virginia, Alma McDonough was one of six daughters from a strong Catholic family. After graduation from Parkersburg High School in 1925, she attended Marshall University for her undergraduate education. Upon graduation, she began a teaching career in Wood County (W.Va.) serving at various elementary and junior high school grade levels. While teaching, she completed her Masters degree in education at Ohio University, Athens.

Alma McDonough met her future husband, Bernard McDonough, through mutual friends, and they were married in 1938. Alma continued to teach for two years after their marriage, but reluctantly retired to raise their growing family. Their son, Bernard III, was born in 1941 and their daughter, Mary, in 1942. Two of Mrs. McDonough's grandsons, Patrick and Brendan, graduated from Wheeling Jesuit University in 1988 and 1991, respectively. A strong Catholic family, the McDonough's were members of St. Michael's Parish in Vienna, West Virginia.

Throughout her life, Alma McDonough demonstrated strong leadership in educational and civic enterprises across West Virginia and Ohio. Catholic schools and universities were particular favorites of both Alma and Bernard. Parkersburg Catholic High School owes its existence to the efforts of the McDonough's. The University of Notre Dame in Indiana and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. both received substantial donations from the McDonough's. Their generosity continues to benefit colleges and universities throughout Ohio and West Virginia through the Bernard McDonough Foundation. The Foundation has funded numerous projects from the McDonough Center for Leadership and Business at Marietta College (Ohio) to technology programs at Ohio Valley College in Vienna (W.Va.).

Mr. McDonough, a highly successful entrepreneurial businessman, became involved with WJU during the college's infancy and served as a member of the school's original board of directors. During these early years, he contributed thousand of dollars to keep the fledgling school from failure. In 1983, the McDonough's donated the first of three sizable contributions for campus construction. This one million dollar contribution allowed the construction of the Chapel of Mary and Joseph. Following the death of her husband, Alma gave 2.5 million for the renovation of Donahue Hall in 1987, and, with the assistance of her daughter, Mary Riccobene, gave six million dollars for the WJU Athletic Center in 1993. Although Alma McDonough donated sizeable gifts to the University, she never asked for any recognition of her contributions.

The WJU community recognized this remarkable and generous women by naming the Alma Grace McDonough Health and Recreation Center in her honor. President Emeritus Rev. Fr. Thomas Acker once noted that "[Alma McDonough is] the most important private benefactor Wheeling Jesuit has ever known." Mrs. McDonough died on May 4, 1992, two years before the dedication of the McDonough Center.

Information compiled from:

  • Parkersburg News, May 6, 1992
  • "Alma Grace McDonough Center Dedication" (brochure)
  • Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Website (www.dwc.org)
  • Georgetown University Website (www.georgetown.edu)
  • The Man and His Work: Bernard P. McDonough by Eugene C. Murdock
  • The Marcolian, February 15,2001
  • Ohio Valley College Website (www.ovc.edu)
  • Wheeling Jesuit University Chronicle, Winter 1998