Date auction raises funds for law student memorial

By Olivia Garber

Pitt law students gathered last night for a date auction to raise money for slain classmate… Pitt law students gathered last night for a date auction to raise money for slain classmate James Wallmuth III, who died this summer after a shooting in his hometown of York, Pa.

Law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta hosted the auction, where bidders purchased combinations of dates and prizes. All proceeds will benefit the James H. Wallmuth III Memorial Scholarship Fund, which was established by Wallmuth’s parents to benefit a York High School graduate going to either Pitt or Penn State University.

Phi Alpha Delta holds a date auction every year. Brian Rambin, fraternity marshal, said the vote to give this year’s proceeds to the Wallmuth scholarship fund was unanimous.

“It was a no-question for us that we were going to donate to the scholarship fund,” Rambin said.

Last night’s auction was the second charity event Pitt law students have organized since Wallmuth’s death.  Last month, friends and family raised about $1,500 during a memorial 5-K run, Rambin said. The race will become an annual event in Wallmuth’s honor, he added.

Although called a date auction, the name was a bit of a misnomer. Law student Erica Pietranton was auctioned along with a pair of tickets to a Penguins hockey game. She said most people don’t bid for the date — they want the various items donated by local organizations.

Even though the event was only open to law students, every chair in the room was filled. Attendees paid $10 for a yellow bracelet and pizza and beer in the back of the building. Pop music pumped from the sound system decorated with yellow and purple balloons, while law students nursed keg beer in blue plastic cups.

They raised their plastic cups and cheered when Rambin — the night’s auctioneer — got on stage and announced that the proceeds would go to Wallmuth’s scholarship fund.

Rambin, along with a $100 bar tab to a South Oakland bar, was later sold for $200. He estimated the fraternity raised about $1,000 for the scholarship fund.

LeMont Restaurant, the Carnegie Science Center and ScareHouse were just a few organizations that contributed to the event.

Rambin said that Pitt donated the venue for the event. The University also held a memorial service earlier in the semester.

“They’ve definitely done their part for us,” he said.

Some of Wallmuth’s former classmates expressed their desire to contribute to his legacy.

“Jimmy was a really great person. Anything we can do to donate to the fund, we definitely want to help,” Phi Alpha Delta member Lisa Howell said.

She said she was in the same class section as Wallmuth, which meant she spent almost every day with him during the school year.

Sam Stein was also also in the same section as Wallmuth.  The second-year law student and tickets to the Pittsburgh Zoo were for sale last night.

Starting at $40, Stein wasn’t too excited about his value and petitioned for ways to boost his price — all unsuccessfully.

“Brian [Rambin] said I couldn’t take my shirt off,” he joked.

The playful demeanor faded when he mentioned his deceased classmate.

“James and I had all our classes together. This is great, what everyone is doing,” he said.

Stein said he was studying in Europe when he heard the news about Wallmuth’s passing and called it the “worst thing ever.”

Rambin said he doesn’t plan to do more events later in the year, but hopes to continue the tradition of donating money to the scholarship fund.

“It’s the thing we can do that’s the most proactive,” he said.

Three teenagers have been charged in relation to the shooting death of Wallmuth.