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The University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law held its commencement ceremony, celebrating the Class of 2022, on Friday, May 6 at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

“What a journey this class has been on,” UK Rosenberg Law Dean Mary J. Davis said. “Throughout the challenges of the past three years, you — graduates — have persevered, driven by the goal that we celebrate today. Today is a long-awaited day of joy for all of us, including the graduates, of course. We all share your sense of accomplishment, your sense of relief, your sense of excitement, and optimism about the future.”

The Class of 2022 forged ahead through myriad changes and challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The students excelled in the classroom and formed a supportive community in extraordinary times, Davis said.

Over the past three years, student organizations, led by members of the graduating class, hosted speakers and legal experts from across Kentucky and the nation. Davis praised the Kentucky Law Journal and Kentucky Journal of Equine, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Law for organizing thoughtful and successful symposia, and the dean noted the two symposia related to the death of Breonna Taylor.

Students in the Class of 2022 have served the law school, university and state as well as many communities across the country. Some of them participated in the newly created, student-led board dedicated to advising college leadership about initiatives focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. Students promoted a healthier law school through wellness initiatives and encouraged all students to prioritize their wellbeing alongside academics, Davis said. Law students served as leaders in the UK Student Government Association. They taught high school students lessons about law and government through the StreetLaw program. UK Rosenberg Law students provided pro bono legal services across the state, and they organized drives to collect supplies and funds for communities affected by floods in Eastern Kentucky and tornadoes in Western Kentucky.

“Through these and countless other activities, the Class of 2022 showed a determination and compassion that will continue to serve them as they begin their legal careers,” Davis said.

It is tradition for the highest-ranked student in the graduating class to present greetings on behalf of students at the commencement ceremony. Joshua G. Wolford of Lexington, Kentucky, spoke for the Class of 2022. Following graduation, Wolford plans to serve one year as a clerk for The Honorable Karen K. Caldwell, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and then one year as a clerk for The Honorable Danny J. Boggs, Senior U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Wolford offered his classmates the following advice: “You do not have to change the world unless you want to. I have no doubt that all of you could effect meaningful, broad-scale change socially, legally and politically if you made it your goal, but you don’t have to in order to be a good lawyer. You can be proud in competently and diligently representing your clients and in playing your role in the system with integrity and empathy.”

“Having said that, you also do not have to accept things as they are,” Wolford said. “If something does not feel right, challenge it. Never assume that an injustice must persist simply because it is deeply rooted in traditions.”

Wolford also reminded students that they don’t have to follow a career path that makes them unhappy, and he suggested that they find careers that fit their lives.

“The letters J.D. aren’t some magical talisman, but they do afford you some flexibility and ultimately the ability to try something new,” he said. “You have all earned the right to be content in your work.”

Students selected Zachary A. Bray, James and Mary Lassiter Professor of Law, to give remarks on behalf of the faculty.

“I hope you will come back and talk to me, to us, when you have questions and big moments but, even more, I hope that you will talk to each other going forward,” Bray said. “You will be so much in each other’s lives, not just in this moment but in years to come.”

Bray told the students that their need for each other would only grow stronger over the years.

“Your purpose, your destination, where you are growing in the law, and where the law will grow with you, that will change over your lives,” Bray said. “But you will find it again and again — as it changes, as it grows — in each other.”

Shaye Page Johnson of the Class of 2002 congratulated the graduates on behalf of the Law Alumni Association. “I am happy to share this day with you because you are the future leaders of tomorrow,” said Johnson, who serves as president of the Law Alumni Association.

The faculty selected E. Yesel Rodriguez of Spanish Fork, Utah, as the 2022 Faculty Cup recipient. The Faculty Cup recognizes a graduating student whose endeavors, both in and outside of the classroom, made the law school a more interesting place for faculty and students alike. Davis noted that Rodriguez served as a leader and volunteer in many student organizations, including the Student Bar Association Executive Board and the Latino Law Students Association. In addition, he helped establish the Parents Attending Law School student organization.

“He has served the college’s Office of Admissions as an ambassador and has done all of this while having two small children of his own,” Davis said. “In addition to his many activities and accomplishments, one of his nominators said, ‘He has been a friend to all and represents all the best things about UK.’”

The dean presented Rodriguez with an engraved silver julep cup.

Jennifer Bird-Pollan, associate dean of academic affairs and professor of law, called the graduates’ names as Dean Davis presented members of the class with certificates signifying attainment of the degree of Juris Doctor. Professors Scott R. Bauries and Alan J. Kluegel were selected by the Class of 2022 place doctoral hoods on each graduate.

“These courageous, passionate and resolute graduates of the UK Rosenberg College of Law are sure to have an important impact in their lives as … on their clients, their communities, the Commonwealth, and our society at large,” Davis said.