Campus News

UK Board Approves 1st Woman Dean of Rosenberg College of Law

photo of Mary J. Davis
The UK Board of Trustees has approved Mary J. Davis as the first female permanent dean of UK's Rosenberg College of Law. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, KY. (Dec. 15, 2020)— The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees today approved the naming of Mary J. Davis as full-time dean of the J. David Rosenberg College of Law effective Jan. 1, 2021. Davis, the Ashland, Inc-Spears Distinguished Research Professor of Law at UK, has been serving as interim dean. She will become the first woman to serve in the role of 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 in announcing that Davis was the choice for the deanship earlier this month.

“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.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.