The Henry Edwin Sever Memorial Hall was designed by Jamieson & Spearl architects and built by general contractor I.E. Millstone Construction Company. Sever Hall opened for classes in the fall of 1949. It is the home of the Sever Institute Program of Continuing Studies, which has been the University's part-time professional engineering degree program since 2006.
Henry Edwin Sever was born on a Missouri farm in 1866, and attended public schools, and then Northeast Missouri State Teachers College at Kirksville. After graduation he became principal of the public schools at Kahoka, and established the first library of Kahoka in his school. During the summer he was a salesman for John Clark Ridpath's History of the World, under Riverside Publishing Company. He eventually became the agent for the state of Missouri, and then the superintendent for the entire U.S. After marriage, he resigned as principal and moved to St. Louis as the president of Riverside Publishing. When the company outgrew its location in St. Louis, he moved it to Chicago. Shortly after, he bought the rights and plates to The History of the World, and after a large ad campaign to sell the book, he retired with a great fortune. His total gifts to Washington University exceeded $1.3 million.