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Northwest Missouri State University


Built during the Teachers School years, the Women's Residence Hall was the only dormitory for women on campus.  Several women chat outside the front entrance of the residence hall several days prior to a tragedy that would result in the death of a student and eventually lead to the renaming of the hall to honor the student. Student Roberta Steel died due to injuries sustained during an explosion on Nov. 29, 1952.  She was 20 years old.Women's Residence Hall on fire after explosion, which caused the death of Roberta Steel.  April 28, 1951.The force of the explosion hurtled the tank back to the Wabash Railroad tracks behind the hall.Four women were critically injured in the blast, one of which was Roberta Steel.Officials survey the damage to the Women's Residence Hall after the blast.The interior of the Women's Residence Hall sustained major damage on multiple floors.A portion of the third floor was all but destroyed following the explosion and fire.Telegram announcing Roberta's death, the name Steel is misspelled on the form.

Roberta Steel

Roberta Hall wasn't always a building that housed sororities, and it wasn't always called Roberta Hall. In its earlier incarnation, the facility was called the Women's Residence Hall and was the only women's residence hall on campus. But that changed after a horrific gas explosion that occurred behind the building near the railroad tracks that once ran behind the residence hall.

On April 28, 1951, a gasoline storage tank on the tracks exploded, sending a steel beam crashing into the Women's Residence Hall and causing a fire. Thirty women were injured, four of them critically, including a student named Roberta Steel. Roberta died a year and a half later from her injuries, but her gentle, loving spirit is said to playfully haunt the building that honors her memory.