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University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear joined UK J. David Rosenberg College of Law faculty, staff and alumni to celebrate the Class of 2020 in a video released on May 8.

The commencement ceremony on May 8 was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing restrictions. However, UK Rosenberg Law Interim Dean Mary Davis said she plans to one day shake each student’s hand in person and look them in the eye as she congratulates them.

“It is your graduation day and even though I’m not physically with you, I am with you in spirit,” Davis said in the video.

Dressed in graduation regalia for a video recorded on the front porch of her home, Davis recalled the first day for the students of the Class of 2020 and reminisced on their three-year journey with peers and faculty “who are forever part of your story.”

“It’s the most exciting day in the life of law school,” Davis said. “We get to celebrate you. We get to think about your futures and all the wonderful things you’ve accomplished.”


UK Rosenberg Law Dean David Brennen was on leave this academic year to participate in the prestigious American Council on Education’s Fellows Program. Brennen also announced earlier this year that he would not return as dean.

In the video, Brennen congratulated the last class to graduate during his 10 years as dean of the UK College of Law.

“Your class has had a pretty wild ride,” he said. “When you arrived in 2017, we had no building and then as soon as we got a new building, the pandemic happened, and you could only spend part of the year in the new facility.”

The law building on South Limestone in Lexington, Kentucky, reopened in August 2019 following a two-year, $56 million renovation.

“Despite these challenges, we are honored that you will always be a part of the great tradition of UK Law,” Brennen said. “Our faculty and staff are second to none and this pandemic has brought out the best of them on your behalf. …Each of you, as a result, should be well prepared to enter the legal profession very soon.”

Capilouto also referenced the sacrifices made by the Class of 2020.

“You have been trained by a world-class faculty, and I know they are missing the opportunity to celebrate with you today,” he said. “But they have prepared you to serve your community with integrity and join the ranks of prestigious Rosenberg College of Law alumni who lead as attorneys, judges, governors and legislators, as corporate, non-profit and education professionals across the country.”

In December 2019, the UK Board of Trustees voted to accept a gift commitment of $20 million from J. David Rosenberg and his wife, Dianne, and officially rename the College of Law as the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law.

Rosenberg is a 1974 graduate of the UK College of Law and serves as senior partner at the law firm of Keating Muething Klekamp PLL in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In the video, Rosenberg congratulated the graduates on entering a profession that has given him much satisfaction for more than four decades.

“College of Law Class of 2020, you are among the most highly educated citizens of the world,” Rosenberg said. “I can only imagine the impact you will have in the decades to come in advancing justice, the rule of law, and the wellbeing of the citizens of your community, our nation and the world.”

Beshear, who served as Kentucky’s attorney general before he became governor, congratulated graduates from the capital of Frankfort, Kentucky.

“I know personally what a big step this is, and I know that your law degree can take you in so many directions. I’m excited for everything that each of you is going to do and what you are going to contribute to our great Commonwealth,” Beshear said.

He said celebrating virtually meant keeping people safe and saving lives.

“My hope is that this experience that we are all going through brings all of us closer together, reminds us to be good neighbors, and that we continue to carry the spirit of compassion forward,” Beshear said. “So, whichever direction you’re going with your law degree, find ways to give back. Let’s help our fellow human being. Let’s come out of this pandemic even better people, and I know that you all are going to lead the charge and help us build that better world.”

More than 20 UK Rosenberg Law faculty and staff appeared in the video. Doug Michael, associate dean of academic affairs, moved a pink Energizer Bunny with a drum across the screen as he told the graduates to “just keep going.”

A few faculty members dressed in graduation regalia, including Professor Jennifer Bird-Pollan who also donned 2020 celebration glasses.

Both Danny Murphy, senior assistant dean of community engagement and operations, and Professor Josh Douglas recruited their young sons to help congratulate the class.

Professor Kathryn Moore poured a toast.

Beau Steenken, instructional services librarian and associate professor of legal research, recorded his tribute from the college’s empty law library.

“We know this isn’t exactly how you anticipated ending your law school career,” Professor Cortney Lollar said. “But don’t let the lack of a proper ceremony – the kind of ceremony that you deserve – take anything away from the amazing accomplishments you’ve achieved over the last three years.”

The video ended with a photo of each student in the graduating class.