Campus News

Mary J. Davis Named Dean of UK J. David Rosenberg College of Law

Mary J. Davis pictured in front of law building
Mary J. Davis will become the first woman to serve as a permanent dean of the UK J. David Rosenberg College of Law. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, KY. (Dec. 8, 2020)— University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law Interim Dean Mary J. Davis, Ashland, Inc-Spears Distinguished Research Professor of Law, has been named dean of the law school pending approval by the UK Board of Trustees and effective Jan. 1, 2021. Davis will become the first woman to serve in the role as a permanent dean at the college.

“In addition to her university service, Mary has made contributions to the profession at the state, regional, national, and international levels through scholarly activities, including service as a visiting professor at four law schools and authoring a leading casebook on product liability. She is passionate about continuing to enhance the college’s strong reputation,” said Provost David W. Blackwell.

“It is an exciting yet challenging time at UK, and announcements like these remind us that our brightest days are ahead,” Blackwell said in an announcement to the college. “As we continue to work toward our ambitious goals, I’d like to thank you for the work you do every day. Please join me in congratulating Dean Davis and supporting her as she leads your college to the next level of excellence.”

Davis has served on the faculty since 1991. She began a tenure as interim dean on July 1, 2019, as the college transitioned from its two-year temporary location into a $56 million rebuild on its original site. Prior to becoming interim dean, Davis served as chair of the college’s building committee. In this role, she was instrumental, from design through construction, in the College of Law having a facility to provide a 21st century legal education through teaching, learning, research, practical skills training and co-curricular programming.

During her tenure as interim dean, the UK College of Law also became the UK J. David Rosenberg College of Law in December 2019 following a generous gift from alumnus J. David Rosenberg and his wife, Dianne. The couple pledged $20 million to fund an endowment and non-endowed gift to support student scholarships, faculty recruitment and retention, and programs for the college.

Davis will succeed David A. Brennen, who was the first African American dean of the college, serving from 2009-2020.

In spring 2020, Davis led the college through unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning when the university quickly transitioned all classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and she has been instrumental as the law school continues to adapt and thrive through the health crisis.

“When I received an offer to teach law at the University of Kentucky in 1991, I thought that I had won the lottery,” Davis said. “I have been honored to serve this institution as a member of a faculty of first-rate scholars and educators and to teach the exceptional students who attend the UK Rosenberg College of Law. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve this institution as its dean. I was excited in 1991 for the future, and I remain excited for what the future holds for the UK Rosenberg College of Law.”

Davis joined the law faculty at UK after spending six years in products liability litigation defense practice for the law firms of Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe in Richmond, Virginia. Her practice experience involved management of nationwide litigation and she is a leading scholar in the nation in the field of products liability.

Davis is a 1985 magna cum laude graduate of the Wake Forest University School of Law, where she served as managing editor of the law review, and a 1979 cum laude graduate of the University of Virginia.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.