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2018 Commencement Celebrates Strong Foundation, Strong Relationships

June 29, 2018 - Commencement brings joy, a sense of achievement and an overwhelming sense of community among all who have come together to honor and congratulate the graduates.  This foundation of support was recognized by those who spoke at this jubilant event marking the culmination of not only three years of hard work, but also the strong relationships formed along the way.

Building on the strong foundation of a UK Law education, 106 graduates celebrated their great accomplishment with family, friends, faculty, staff and now fellow alumni at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

“While going through law school, one does not succeed without the support of others,” said Dean David A. Brennen as he welcomed all in attendance.  “This class is a collection of students who have formed a community that extends beyond the classroom,” said Dean Brennen.  “In just three years, these students have achieved the extraordinary.”

Dean Brennen gleaned several highlights of the Class of 2018’s accomplishments.  Law and business students worked together as volunteers in the VITA clinic, preparing over 500 tax returns for low-income taxpayers, collectively saving clients thousands of dollars in tax preparation fees; students enhanced their practical skills training through numerous competitions, such as the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition in St. Louis, Missouri, the 25th annual Willem C. Vis International Arbitration Moot in Vienna, Austria; the National Moot Court Competition in Richmond, Virginia, and the National Trial Competition, where  students in the graduating class claimed first place in regional competition, finished in the top four in the country at the national finals in Austin, Texas, and had a member of their class win runner-up honors for Best Advocate in the nation.

A class member received the prestigious recognition of being selected as the American College of Bankruptcy’s Distinguished Law Student for the Sixth Circuit in 2018. Another member received the University’s Lyman T. Johnson 2017 Torch Bearer Award, which recognizes a student who exemplifies the passion and courage exhibited by Mr. Johnson, who led racial desegregation efforts at UK. The student-run law journals hosted legal symposia, including the Kentucky Law Journal’s Symposium on “Religious Exemptions and Harm to Others,” and the Kentucky Journal of Equine, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Law’s Annual Symposium titled “Innovation and Advancement.” Additionally, class members taught real-life lessons in law and government to high school students through StreetLaw; provided pro bono legal services during spring break in underserved areas of Eastern Kentucky; promoted a healthier law school community through the UK Law wellness Initiative; and partnered with a local non-profit to bring puppies eligible for adoption to the law school to help students relax before finals.

“Through all of these activities, the Class of 2018 demonstrated an outward focus that will continue to serve them as they begin their legal careers,” said Dean Brennen.

Victoria Boland, the student who ranks highest in the Class of 2018, spoke to the class, illuminating the graduates’ unlimited potential and the importance of creating a strong support system. “Despite the inherent competitive nature that law school has, I have found this to be a consistently supporting and encouraging class that genuinely likes each other – which has made me even more proud to belong to it,” said Victoria.  She continued, “It is my hope that we all realize that our time here at UK has given us much more than a diploma to hang on our walls.  It has hopefully given us an awareness and a belief that we have incredible potential to work harder than we thought we could, to realize that inevitable mistakes are meant to be learned from rather than feared, and to seek out and offer support along the way.”

Professor Christopher W. Frost, who was selected by the graduating students to deliver remarks, summed up his message by stating, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

Mark P. Bryant (UK Law ’73), of Bryant Law Firm in Paducah, Kentucky, and Vice-Chair of the UK Board of Trustees, addressed the graduates on behalf of the Kentucky Bar Association. He shared many changes to the profession that have occurred since he began practicing and acknowledged that we work in a faster pace today.  He stressed how important it is to exhibit character and bring the human element to practicing law.  Additionally, he shared eight “rules of basic training” for young lawyers.  One rule is, “Your word is your bond and your most important asset.  Be a straight shooter, not a bluffer.  This is not a card game.  It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation.  It takes seconds to ruin it.” 

The faculty selected Katelyn Brown as the Faculty Cup recipient, and Dean Brennen presented her with an engraved silver julep cup during the presentation of awards.  Dean Brennen recognized the Order of the Coif, as well as students who received the Pro Bono Award.  Reaching the culmination of not only the ceremony, but also their law school career, each candidate was awarded their certificate signifying attainment of the degree of Juris Doctor.

With the Class of 2018 becoming alumni, the UK Law Alumni Association President, Stephen Milner, welcomed the newest members of the association. He reminded the graduates, “It’s the people sitting around you that make this institution the special place it is.  Both the sense of camaraderie and goodwill you’ve nurtured here at UK will serve you well as members of the bar and always.”

All Rise!