Spring 2015

Father and Son Team Up to Establish Davenport Family Scholarship Fund

By Amy Spooner

William K. Davenport, ’53, and Kirk A. Davenport, ’84
William K. Davenport, ’53, and Kirk A. Davenport, ’84

Fathers and sons often share many traits. 

For Bill Davenport, ’53, and his son Kirk Davenport, ’84, their shared love of and appreciation for the U-M Law School has led to a desire to give back.

Together, Bill and Kirk have established the Davenport Family Scholarship Fund for current and future students at Michigan Law. Initially the fund will be $125,000, but the Davenports anticipate making additional gifts in the future. 

“We appreciate the excellent training we received at the Law School, which positioned us for successful careers as lawyers,” says Bill. Kirk adds, “We both see our time at Michigan as a magical chapter in our lives.”

Bill grew up in Jackson, Michigan, and graduated with honors from Harvard College. On the advice of many who told him that Michigan was the best law school in the country, he came to the Quad and became an editor of the Michigan Law Review, as well as a member of Order of the Coif and Phi Delta Phi. 

“Our social life revolved around the Phid House,” Bill says. “I made a great decision by attending Michigan and had a wonderful time in addition to receiving a wonderful education.”

After law school, Bill joined the New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP as an associate before being drafted into the U.S. Army and ultimately receiving a commission in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. 

After leaving the Army in 1957, he returned to Cravath before joining Ford Motor Company’s legal department in 1963. He retired from Ford in 1983 as assistant general counsel.

Growing up as the son of a lawyer, following in his dad’s footsteps was by no means a given, says Kirk. But as graduation from Brown University loomed—with no concrete job prospects—law school began to seem more plausible. 

“I studied architecture and solar energy,” says Kirk, “and that did not position me for any obvious career choices in 1981.” When Kirk arrived in the Quad, two things surprised him: how much he loved law school, and how friendly he became with his classmates. “I didn’t think you could make lifelong friends in law school, but I did,” says Kirk. “And the way the Socratic method was used in courses like Con Law and Contracts was fun. I guess I discovered that I am more of a nerd than I thought because I really loved law school.”

After graduating magna cum laude and Order of the Coif, Kirk followed his father’s path to Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York, before joining the brand-new New York office of Latham & Watkins LLP. He now is a partner and member of the firm’s corporate department, in addition to serving as co-chair of its national office. 

“Before going to law school, I wasn’t sure anyone could love being a lawyer, but I do,” Kirk says. “I’ve had a fabulous time and am forever grateful to the Law School for making me employable. It was no easy task!”

Both father and son have been loyal donors to the Law School individually, but they say creating the scholarship fund together strikes a special chord because their support will directly impact students they can get to know. 

“Michigan positions people to have extraordinary lives,” says Kirk, “and we are thrilled to do our part.”