Law students

During this transitional period, another student publication emerged. Juris began as a vehicle to promote internal communication among day and evening students, faculty, staff and alumni. Though initially focused on school activities, its writers eagerly tackled topical issues and advocacy as well. A lengthy faculty profile appearing in the inaugural issue set the tone.

Spanning portions of four pages, the article recounted the life of Professor Louis Manderino. The son of Italian immigrants who settled in the Mon Valley, Manderino was a bright, brash young graduate of St. Vincent College and Harvard Law. He returned to Monessen and set up a practice with his brother, but a series of fateful events called him to teaching at Duquesne. He began on a part-time basis in 1956, and three years later was hired full-time by Dean Quinn. Though he tried to keep his hand in the practice, by 1962 Manderino’s energies were focused exclusively on the school, where he became a favorite among students. 

In November 1967, the second issue of Juris featured an editorial expressing frustration at the slow process of the search and questioning a committee decision not to consider current faculty.

In an era of mounting unrest, Duquesne law students’ persistent yet peaceful prodding paid off. Manderino, at age 38, was named by Fr. McAnulty as the school’s sixth dean in early 1968. The new dean’s portrait graced the cover of the February Juris. Nobody realized then how brief Manderino’s tenure would be, or that his successor was the topic of that issue’s faculty profile.

Ironically, the seeds of Manderino’s departure had already been planted. An unabashed liberal who was active in Democratic Party politics, he was a delegate to the 1967-68 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention. In the Juris profile, he defended his activism: “The days of the Ivory Tower concept of education are gone. A teacher in a university such as this should recognize a duty and responsibility to serve his community and be a valuable and helpful citizen.” 

Among the 1968 constitutional reforms was a new level of appellate jurisdiction. A former law clerk to Duquesne Law alumnus and federal judge Austin L. Staley, L’28, Manderino was soon called to his own seat on the bench as a charter member of the new Commonwealth Court. He resigned the deanship in 1970; then won election to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court the next year. At the age of 41, he was the youngest man ever elected to the state’s highest court.

A consummate recruiter during his early teaching days, Manderino accelerated the growth in the Law School’s enrollment, which increased from 472 to more than 600 during his brief deanship. 

Manderino continued to serve the school as an adjunct faculty member during his years on the bench. On November 8, 1979, he collapsed and died of a heart attack while walking down Fifth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. He is fondly remembered by students and colleagues alike. 

The school’s next dean would be even younger than Manderino at the time of his appointment—only 35 years old—one of the youngest in the nation at the time. Even more remarkable to outside observers, but fully in keeping with Duquesne’s historic commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, Ronald R. Davenport was the first black dean of a major American law school. 

Some of Davenport’s priorities were a throwback to the school’s early emphasis on ensuring access to legal education for all. Funding for scholarship aid was increased, leading to significant increases in the enrollment of women and students of color. In an effort to challenge the top american law schools, academic and externship programs were enhanced and expanded.

The school’s national reputation improved; its graduates became more marketable locally and across the country. Alumnus Kellen McClendon, L’74, now a member of the faculty, also credits Davenport with engendering a contagious attitude of confidence among the student body. Hanley Hall ground breaking

That attitude was reflected in the students’ success. For example, every one of the 185 members of McClendon’s 1974 graduating class passed the Bar exam on the first sitting, making Duquesne the only law school in Pennsylvania with a 100 percent first-time pass rate that year.

Those confident students, however, were also more and more crowded. While the top three floors of Rockwell Hall comfortably accommodated fewer than 200 students in 1958, they were woefully inadequate to house three times as many—along with the accompanying growth of faculty and staff—less than 15 years later. Dean Davenport began the process of raising funds and gaining university approval for a new law school building on campus, but like many of the deans before him, he would not be able to see the project through to fruition.

While serving as dean, Davenport also had outside business interests in a network of radio stations serving minority communities across the country. The demands of the business, a desire to spend more time with his family, dissention among segments of the faculty, and differences of opinion with the university’s new president—the Rev. Donald Nesti, C.S.Sp.— culminated in a June 1981 announcement that Davenport would resign at year’s end. The day before that news surfaced, ground had been broken for construction of the school’s new home—Hanley Hall. 

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