Givens Hall is named for Joseph B. Givens, who in 1930 provided the University with funds to construct a building for the School of Architecture and establish a general scholarship fund. Givens' gift was made in memory of his parents, Joseph W. and Kate Abigail Givens.
Joseph W. Givens was born in August of 1859. His father was a partner in the construction firm Givens & Adams, a company that built many of the buildings on the Washington University Danforth Campus. When Joseph Givens began to work for his father, the business began to see a steady increase in profits, and before long, Joseph and his father had acquired a substantial fortune. When Joseph's mother died, he and his father both retired from the business: Joseph remained a bachelor until 1930, and his father lived a quiet life at the family home until his death. Shortly before Joseph's death in 1934, he gave a sum of $700,000 to the University; a portion was to be used to build Givens Memorial Hall, and the rest was to be used to begin a scholarship fund for architects. He dedicated the hall to the memory of his parents.