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The Women’s Law Caucus, a student organization at the UK J. David Rosenberg College of Law, held its annual spring reception on March 23, honoring Fayette District Court Judge Melissa Murphy, an alumna of the law school; Blanche Bong Cook, Roberg E. Harding Jr. associate professor of law; and second-year law student Sterling T. Crayton.

Crayton won the Rebecca Westerfield Award for Excellence in Leadership for his advocacy for women in the legal profession.

“I’m extremely honored that I was chosen to receive this year’s Westerfield Award,” he said. “I keep telling my family and friends how overwhelmed I was by everyone’s kind words at the event. It really brought me a lot of joy, and I truly appreciate Judge Westerfield and the Women’s Law Caucus for such a meaningful recognition.”

As a freshman at UK, Crayton helped LEXengaged, an initiative that connects campus and community, partner with William Wells Brown Elementary School to help children of color through an after-school program focused on proficiency in writing, reading, math and science. As president of the Black Voices Gospel Choir, Crayton helped to develop a lasting partnership in music with the students at William Wells.

“As a law student, this recipient has continued his dedication to addressing issues that students of color face on our campus,” said Caroline Augenstein, president of the Women’s Law Caucus, before presenting the award to Crayton.

Crayton serves as a member of the law school’s first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Student Advisory Board and represents the law school on the UK Student Government Association Supreme Court.

The Westerfield Award is awarded annually to a rising third-year law student who has demonstrated excellence in leadership on campus, in the civic sphere, in the arts, or in scholarly research and writing. Rebecca Westerfield is a 1975 graduate of the law school and a former Jefferson County Circuit Court judge.

The Women’s Law Caucus held the reception at Clerestory, an event space near downtown Lexington, in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines. Judge Murphy attended the event and spoke to the group in person and Professor Cook provided remarks via Zoom.

In her presentation, Cook recognized Murphy; UK Rosenberg Law Dean Mary J. Davis, the first woman to serve as dean of the law school; Kelly Daniel, the first Black editor of the Kentucky Law Journal; and all women.

“Magic is a term used to describe women in order to make their achievements palatable to a world that may still have a hard time with their brilliance,” Cook said. “It wasn’t magic that made Justice (Ruth Bader) Ginsberg a Supreme Court justice. It was an incredible track record of jurisprudence. It wasn’t magic that made Dean Davis a dean of a top law school. It wasn’t magic that made Judge Murphy a judge on a Fayette County bench. It wasn’t magic that made Kelly Daniel a revered law review editor. It wasn’t magic that made the women in this room right now. It was hard work, determination, focus, dedication.”

Women today balance careers, childcare, ailing parents, in-home schooling for children, and obligations in their communities and their homes. “They are everywhere, and they are doing everything,” she said.  Still, women are 35 percent more likely than men to be poor in this country.

Murphy recalled the 2020 Women’s Law Caucus Spring Reception, one of the last events attended by the law school community before pandemic restrictions were put in place. “I kept remembering how amazing it felt to honor women,” she said.

“We’re not only thermometers, but we’re also thermostats,” Murphy said. “We have the ability to go into a place and we can sense and feel when it’s not right. We know when an environment is not as it should be. …But we’re also thermostats because we take the opportunity to make the change when we see something is wrong. We change the environment that we enter into.”