University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto, Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton and former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear joined UK College of Law faculty, staff, students and alumni Tuesday, Nov. 19, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the reopening of the Law Building following a two-year, $56 million renovation and expansion.
"Although the walls around us are new, they are steeped in a powerful legacy and tradition of fairness, hard work, decency, and excellence — this space is hallowed," Capilouto said. "History has shown us that in times of tension, when we cannot find commonalities in our ideologies, perspectives, and opinions, we turn to our laws, for within them are the principles of order. These grounds are distinguished for what is done here. And since 1908, when the University of Kentucky College of Law became one of the nation’s first state law schools, this college has provided a space where students are challenged and inspired. A space where ideas are confronted, refined, changed, and strengthened. A space that empowers its people to answer the call to serve, to advocate, to uplift."
With the renovation and expansion, the College of Law’s footprint increased 26% to 122,513 square feet, providing more space for teaching, learning, research, practical skills training and co-curricular programming. The building was designed to support enhanced teaching and learning and provide the foundation for a high-quality legal education in the 21st century.
Located on South Limestone with a main entrance facing the center of campus, the building’s façade consists of large windows that flood the interior with natural light. In addition, each floor is interspersed with built-in alcoves and common areas designed to facilitate collaboration.
Numerous donations from alumni and friends of the College of Law helped make the project a reality. The university also announced on Nov. 8 a historic $20 million gift to the College of Law from alumnus J. David Rosenberg and his wife, Dianne, who live in Cincinnati. The gift was the third-largest single donation in the university’s history. Subject to approval from the University Senate and UK Board of Trustees, the new college will be named the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law.
“This building — our new home for the College of Law — shows current and future students our commitment to empowering them to excel in the classroom and in careers throughout the Commonwealth and across the globe,” said UK Law Dean David A. Brennen, who returned from professional development leave to speak at Tuesday’s ceremony in the G. Chad Perry III ’51 Grand Courtroom. “Every aspect of this facility — the courtroom and classroom technology; the natural light in the Law Library and throughout the building; the collaboration spaces on every floor — is about preparing our students and enhancing our faculty research to impact Kentucky and the world.”
Brennen said students choose to attend UK Law because of the college’s reputation for having a stellar academic program and graduates who excel in bar passage and employment success. The Law Building now reflects the law program, which is consistently ranked among the best law schools in the country.
“We surveyed faculty, students, staff and alumni during the early phases of design planning to find out those features that really mattered in creating our new College of Law,” said interim Dean Mary J. Davis, who chaired the building committee. “The most important goal was enhancement of faculty-student interaction. Students and faculty want to be able to collaborate in and out of the classroom.”
Additional features of the renovated Law Building include:
- A new main entrance with a two-story portico.
- The modernized 185-seat G. Chad Perry III ’51 Grand Courtroom for oral argument training, live court proceedings, lectures and conferences.
- A new small moot courtroom for litigation training.
- Eleven new classrooms.
- High-tech enhancements to all study spaces and classrooms.
- The Stites and Harbison PLLC Commons on the second floor, adjacent to Common Grounds coffeeshop.
- The Honorable William S. Cooper ’70 Classrooms — three medium classrooms that can be converted into one large multipurpose room — on the third floor.
- A central location for all administrators and student support staff on the first floor in the Jo McCown Ferguson Dean’s Administration Suite, which was named in conjunction with a gift from UK Trustee Emeritus C.M. “Bill” Gatton.
- Two terraces — one on the second floor and another on the third floor.
“We created spaces for students to gather together, to work together, and to build community,” Davis said. “Our reimagined College of Law Building accomplishes these important things in abundance, all while providing a state-of-the-art learning environment.”
The construction project started in mid-July 2017 with the demolition of the Law Building, originally constructed in 1965, down to its concrete foundation. Sherman Carter Barnhart of Lexington and Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates of New York City designed the building. Congleton-Hacker Company, also of Lexington, served as the construction managers. David Collins of UK Capital Projects oversaw the construction project for the university.
“Today, we commemorate a facility that will embolden and empower the kind of scholarship our faculty must produce and the kind of education and call to service our students need and deserve. That need — and this college’s place in our state — are why I pushed, with a sense of dogged determination, for funding for this facility. I know the power and importance of the work done here and the education provided. Place matters. The space in which we do our work is vital,” Beshear said. “And if we want the best from our students, and from those who educate them, then we must provide space and facilities that enhance and extend their work. Today, we dedicate a facility that will make good on that promise. Our state needs bold leaders, leaders who put people above party and progress above partisanship. The process of producing those kinds of leaders, in many ways, can, should and must start here … in this building.”
“The Law Building itself is amazing and state-of-the-art, but what happens inside the building is even more beautiful,” said Chynna Hibbitts, president of the Student Bar Association and a third-year law student. “Fostering relationships with one another is equally as important as what we are learning. I’m excited to see how bonds among students, faculty and staff continue to grow as we spend more time in this community.”
The celebration of the Law Building extends to this evening when Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, speaks at 5 p.m. in the Singletary Center for the Arts Recital Hall. His keynote address is part of the Roy R. and Virginia F. Ray Distinguished Lecture Series in conjunction with the Judge John G. Heyburn II Initiative for Excellence in the Federal Judiciary. The event requires an RSVP at http://law.uky.edu/gregory.
To learn more about the University of Kentucky College of Law, visit law.uky.edu.