Date of Award

Spring 4-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Dr. Stephen Sherblom

Second Advisor

Dr. Kristine Smith

Third Advisor

Dr. Joseph Alsobrook


In 1916, Ellen Quinlan Donnelly aka Nelly Don started a fashion empire from her humble Kansas City home. She became one of the wealthiest and most celebrated American women in business with a career that spanned well into the 1960s. The Nelly Don Empire reportedly sold more dresses in the 20th century than any other single person in the United States, and she started as a Lindenwood College student. This study investigated Nell Quinlan Donnelly the “Grand Lady” of the garment industry beyond her millionaire status and revolutionary business leadership at Donnelly Garment Company. The reexamination of Nell Quinlan Donnelly’s 60 year relationship with Lindenwood College began in 1907 as the first married student to attend. Donnelly graduated in 1909 with a Seminary Diploma and later became a phenomenal business, civic, and educational leader. The significance of Nell Quinlan Donnelly’s relationship with Lindenwood College has been identified by her recognition of the changing role of young women post World War II. Donnelly, a visionary leader, and a member of the Lindenwood Board of Directors and several other administrative boards, encouraged developing programs that focused on mathematics and computer science. Donnelly challenged Lindenwood education leaders with the idea of “reaching beyond traditional confines of Liberal Arts programs and to expand student experiences that would offer ‘unlimited opportunities’ for young women” (Lindenwood Board of Director notes 1944 & 1962; Ebling & Kavanaugh, 1980). The foresight of “unlimited opportunities” afforded to young women as envisioned by Nell Quinlan Donnelly would prove her to be a woman ahead of her time and one of Lindenwood’s most loyal and dedicated educational leaders.


Copyright 2018