Marshall Davis inside Davis Pharmacy in Vermillion in the late 1920s or early 30s

Taken in the late 1920s or early 30s, this photo shows Marshall Davis at the back of the photo to the right of the man in the hat and tie.

The USD Alumni Association debuted the Coyote Legacy Scholarship program this year at the University of South Dakota, awarding $1,000 scholarships to 59 first-year in-state children of USD alumni.

Emma Lavin was thrilled when she learned she would receive the Legacy scholarship. Her USD story wouldn’t be possible without the four generations of Coyotes in the Davis/Lavin family that came before her.

The Davis/Lavin family has been attending the University of South Dakota since the early 1900s. It started with first generation Roy and Fern Davis. Roy attended USD before working for Alfred Helgeson at what is known today as Davis Pharmacy. Fern graduated from the art department at USD in 1903 and taught art classes as well. Their son Marshall Davis graduated from USD in 1928 with a degree in economics and his wife Roberta in 1932 with a French degree. In fact, Marshall and Roberta got engaged outside of Old Main. Their daughter Sandy and her husband, Tom Lavin, both attended USD for a couple of years in the 1960s before transferring to SDSU to earn their degrees in pharmacy.

Three generations of the Lavin family
Three generations of the Lavin family.

Sandy said that the Davis/Lavin family didn’t make a conscientious effort to attend USD, at least not initially. When her grandparents Roy and Fern Davis attended, it was likely out of convenience in location as transportation wasn’t as accessible then.

“The school was good and probably financially reasonable, too,” Sandy said.

Education has always been important to Sandy and her family. All four of her grandparents graduated college during a time when attending college wasn’t the norm. When it was Sandy’s time to decide on what university she would head to, she did look at others before choosing USD, but the familiarity of the school kept her in Vermillion.

“The tradition had to get started, maybe not purposefully, but then you cross your fingers and hope it continues,” Sandy shared.

Sandy and Tom have five children, with three of them also attending USD. Megan (Lavin) Maddox and Matt Lavin transferred to SDSU to follow in their parent’s footsteps and earned degrees in pharmacy while their brother, Marshall Lavin, headed to Nebraska to get a degree in dentistry. Marshall’s wife, Angeline, graduated from USD in 1993 with a degree in business administration, specializing in management. Sandy and Tom’s other children, Molly and Mark, both graduated from the UNL College of Dentistry.

"To know that my great-great-grandmother was paving the way during her time and that I can continue to do the same and carry on that Lavin family tradition is special to me." - Lauren Lavin, a fifth-generation Davis/Lavin Coyote

The other Davis/Lavin family tradition is working at Davis Pharmacy, a staple of the Vermillion community since 1879. When the pharmacy opened, it was located below the bluff but a flood in 1881 forced it to open a new location on Market Street where it stayed for 20 years before moving to Main Street. Roy Davis began working for Alfred Helgeson in the early 1900s and purchased the pharmacy from Helgeson a few years later. Roy didn’t change the name to Davis Pharmacy until the 1920s.

In 1931, Marshall Davis took over the family business after his father, Roy, passed away. Tom and Sandy Lavin bought the pharmacy in 1970 and owned it for more than 40 years before selling it to their son, Matt, who is the current owner. In the early 2000s, the pharmacy moved to Cherry Street where it still resides today.

Matt, along with his siblings, grew up coming to the pharmacy daily. He was comfortable and familiar with the family business and felt like it was a good fit for him. He also got to know many of their customers well, which allowed him to hear stories about his family and what the pharmacy was like years ago.

“Hearing these stories reinforced the fact that it was a good direction to go. It just clicked for me,” Matt explained.

Davis Pharmacy had a soda fountain until the 1960s and at one time sold gasoline, paint and wallpaper. It even provided services like cutting glass, which wasn’t available elsewhere at the time. Today, it continues to serve the Vermillion community by filling prescriptions and selling gifts, greeting cards and other home and beauty essentials. Old glass bottles, some 100 years old, sit in the current location on Cherry Street. Many of the display pieces and knick knacks from the pharmacy rest in the homes of the Lavin family.

Roy C. Davis is pictured in Davis Pharmacy in Vermillion during the mid-1920s.
Roy C. Davis is pictured in Davis Pharmacy during the mid-1920s.

When Matt attended USD, he focused on making the most of it. He said his brother Marshall was a big reason Matt chose USD because he saw how much Marshall enjoyed being there. Matt immersed himself in the university culture which meant he didn’t go home much, despite the distance being a matter of blocks.

“The university has so much to offer. Sometimes kids think you need to go away to get a great education but, in many cases, the best is right outside your door,” Matt said.

Now, the fifth generation of the Davis/Lavin family is attending USD: Marshall and Angeline’s daughters Lauren and Emma, along with Matt and Carol’s daughter, Maddie. Lauren is in her second year and Emma and Maddie are first-year students. All three women also work at the pharmacy part-time as pharmacy technicians.

Lauren is studying psychology and minoring in economics, business and disaster mental health, along with being in the Honors program. She is involved in the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and Equip ministry. She holds several leadership positions, including special events director for Campus Activities Board, student ambassador, yoga instructor at the Wellness Center and supplemental instruction leader for Psychology 101. On top of that, she runs a baked goods business, Bakologie.

“To know that my great-great-grandmother was paving the way during her time and that I can continue to do the same and carry on that Lavin family tradition is special to me,” Lauren said.

Maddie is in the Honors program as well and is studying medical biology, with hopes to go on to dental school, and she has athletic scholarships for swimming, track and cross country. Maddie grew up attending sporting events and was familiar with many of the coaches. For her, it means a lot to be carrying on the tradition of attending USD.

Lauren, Maddie and Emma Lavin are fifth-generation Davis/Lavin Coyotes.
Lauren, Maddie and Emma Lavin are fifth-generation Davis/Lavin Coyotes.

“USD is a part of me,” Maddie said. “It’s cool that I can compete and represent where I’m from.”

Emma is studying business. She is involved in Equip ministry and may join the same sorority as big sister Lauren at some point. Along with being a recipient of the Legacy Scholarship, she is also a scholarship recipient of the Coyote Commitment Scholarship.

“There’s a lot of family ties and people we know. It’s comforting coming to a school where I know there’s always people who will support me,” Emma shared. “It was a natural fit.”

The Coyote Legacy Scholarship Program aims to honor and recognize families, like the Davis/Lavin family, who have made a multi-generational commitment to USD. It’s just one way to thank them for their support and encourage future generations to follow in their family’s footsteps.