Founding Member of the Roger Williams University School of Architecture
In the early 1970s, Paul J. Donnelly was an architecture student at the Boston Architectural Center and lived in Cambridge. The day he got off the T at Charles Circle and walked down Charles Street, he fell in love with Beacon Hill and decided it would be his home. He moved into a loft on Charles Street and maintained a residence on Beacon Hill for the rest of his life.
Paul John Donnelly, 78, died January 17, 2023 after a long battle with squamous cell carcinoma.
Born in Boston, he was the son of the late Lawrence P. Donnelly and Louise Donnelly. Paul grew up in the close-knit community of Dorchester Lower Mills and maintained many life-long childhood friendships. He went to Cathedral High School in the South End and received his bachelor’s degree in structural engineering from Northeastern University, a master’s degree in engineering mechanics from Columbia University and a bachelor of architecture degree from the Boston Architectural Center.
An extraordinary teacher of architecture and a founding member of the Roger Williams University School of Architecture, Paul was devoted to his students. As an educator, he held the Rebecca & John Voyles Chair in Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis for 17 years. His research interests included membrane technology, air structure, robotics, technology transfer, technology integration, and enclosures and environments. His designs have been published and exhibited in the United States, Europe, and Japan, and he received numerous awards for innovation in architectural teaching and technology integration. Paul’s teaching and professional projects have been published in leading journals, including Architectural Record, Architecture and Progressive Architecture.
The American Institute of Architects elected him to Fellowship in 2002. Paul most recently served as the Assistant Director for Design for the City of Boston’s Public Facilities Department and served on the Beacon Hill Architectural Commission.
Paul was also an artist and maintained a studio in the South End. Reflecting the influence of his architectural studies, his paintings were abstract at the outset, and over time they continued to advance his focus on the interconnectedness of form, material science, and abstraction.
Paul was a gentleman with a kind and caring soul. He loved the city of Boston, its landscape and its proximity to the ocean; he enjoyed taking a dip in the water at the L Street Bathhouse and going for a daily walk. He was also exceedingly proud of his dual citizenship with Ireland. Paul had a purist’s approach to architecture and art that extended to his desire for plain vanilla ice cream and a classic gin martini.
Paul is survived by his wife, Adelaide (Eshbach), and his beloved siblings, Louise Lydon of Milton and Brian Donnelly of Dennis and by his many nieces and nephews, in-laws, close friends, neighbors, and former colleagues and students. He was predeceased by his brother Lawrence P. Donnelly, Jr., of Milton.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on April 8, 2023, at the MIT Chapel in Cambridge.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Boston Architectural College or The Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design at Washington University in St. Louis. Please indicate that gifts are for the Paul Donnelly memorial.
Boston Architecture College
320 Newbury Street
Boston, MA 02115
Online donations may be made at: https://the-bac.edu/giving/make-a-gift
The Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design
Washington University in St. Louis
7425 Forsyth Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63105
Online donations may be made at: https://giving.wustl.edu/PaulDonnelly