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corner of the Martha Cook building

The Martha Cook Building

I Spy: September 2018

by Sally Bjork

From the October, 2018 issue

"The photo must be from the Martha Cook Building," writes Ann Whiting, referring to the limestone face featured in September. It was the clue that tipped her off--Martha Cook "has Portia o'er the door."

"The fictive lawyer found nearby," says David Karl, "is a statue of Portia ...the heroine of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice." Though not part of the original design, Portia overlooks the South University entrance and has been referred to as the building's "crowning feature."

She's there at the urging of William Cook, the wealthy alum who donated the money to build both Martha Cook (named for his mother) and the adjoining Law Quad. According to A Booklet of the Martha Cook Building: a History of the First Twenty-Five Years by Marion Lucile Slemons, when Cook, a lawyer himself, was reviewing suggestions for an addition to the main entrance, he commented they were "all angels or saints, and not a lawyer or sinner among them." Then, "Mr. Cook hit upon the idea of 'Shakespeare's greatest lawyer,' Portia ... 'a full-throated woman of vivacity, poise and feminine charm.'" She was added in 1918.

We received just four entries in August, and two of those mistakenly identified the building as the Law Quad. That left just Whiting and Karl in our drawing; Whiting won, and will enjoy her $25 gift certificate at Sweetwaters.


To enter this month's contest, use the photo and clue on the Back Page of the October issue and the information at the bottom of the page to submit your answer.     (end of article)

[Originally published in October, 2018.]


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