Judith and William Davis, '72
Bill Davis became familiar with the work of master blacksmith Samuel Yellin as an
undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh, in Davis’s hometown. The Cathedral
of Learning and Heinz Chapel on the Pitt campus featured decorative iron and bronze
work crafted by Yellin, and these buildings were included in an art appreciation
course at Pitt.
“I was very taken by that work, and by the ability of those kinds of accessories to
make a difference in how things look and feel,” says Davis, of Ann Arbor. In 1969, Davis brought his young family here, where he served a remaining two years of active service as an ROTC instructor. With the help of the late Professor Emeritus Roy Proffi tt (“the ultimate veterans’ advocate,” Davis says), he enrolled in the Law School while still in uniform.
“I immediately recognized that the [York and Sawyer–designed] Law Quadrangle
was replete with Samuel Yellin’s work,” Davis recalls. “It knocked me out.”
Fast forward to 2011, when he was considering a gift to the building project and metalwork for their English country home with wrought iron railings and Gothic appointments, using the Law School as a pattern. They were delighted with the results. As Davis told Tom Schlaff, the Law School’s building project manager, “Anything Samuel Yellin could do, Scott can do.”
The Davises made a gift of $100,000 to underwrite Lankton’s crafting of bronze door pulls in the Yellin style for entrances to South Hall and the Robert B. Aikens Commons. Lankton, an admirer of the Law Quadrangle, responded with work that is perfect to the last detail, including the etching of “Robert” and “Aikens” on the exterior Commons door pulls. Upon seeing the beautiful detail of the Aikens Commons door pulls, the Law School construction team conspired to surprise Dean Evan Caminker with a set of door pulls of his own. With the blessing of Bill Davis, who thought it a “very deserving honor,” the team had Lankton etch “Evan” and “Caminker” on door pulls that were installed on the south entrance to South Hall. The team then surprised Dean Caminker with the pulls in early January. The Davises’ gift also will fund custom metalwork by Lankton in the upcoming renovation of the Lawyers Club residences and to replace older replacement railings that are out of character for the buildings. Any balance will be employed in academic work.
Lankton’s work, like Yellin’s before him, adds a fi nishing touch to the Law School’s building project rarely seen in 21st-century construction. “When you grasp one of those door pulls, you feel like you’re opening a portal into legal history,” Davis says. “That authentic hand-wrought detail adds a certain gravitas to the motivational and artistic character of the Law School. I’m sure that William Cook would approve!”