The first idea for an Austrian Classroom in the Cathedral of Learning came about in 1950 via Walter Sobotka who was a professor in the University’s Graduate School of Retailing. The idea never took hold for reasons unknown. It was not until the Austrian American Cultural Society, formed in 1978 by Dr. Ivo Fischer, accepted a formal invitation from the University of Pittsburgh’s Chancellor, Wesley Posvar, to build an Austrian classroom within the Cathedral of Learning. The Society formed an Austrian Room Committee, joined the Nationality Rooms Council in November of 1987 and began planning for the room. The Society and the Committee made large fundraising efforts to raise the necessary $250,000 required to build this baroque-style classroom, receiving donations from individuals and corporations both in the United States and in Austria. From its inception, the Austrian American Cultural Society dedicated itself to the celebration and dissemination of information about Austrian culture and history. The Society sponsored its first Austrian Ball in 1986 and it has become an annual tradition.
The Austrian Room Committee was formed to undertake the project of designing, funding, and building the Austrian Nationality Room. Through much effort, the Chair of the Austrian Room Committee, Joseph Pandl, and Co-Chairs, Dr. Joseph Novak and Dolores Stehr, worked to create networks among native Austrians, Austrian-Americans, Austrian businessmen and corporations, and local foundations. They succeeded in securing many grants and donations of both funds and materials. In addition, two architects, Franz Gerhard Schnögass of Vienna and Günther Kaier of Pittsburgh, donated their time and effort to design the room. Construction of the room was carried out by the firm John DeKlewa & Sons, Inc. Furnishings for the room were made and shipped from Austria.