This alumnus just gave UK College of Law a $20 million donation

J. David Rosenberg, received a standing ovation as he and his wife Dianne, gave a $20 Million dollar gift to the UK college of Law on November 8, 2019.
J. David Rosenberg, received a standing ovation as he and his wife Dianne, gave a $20 Million dollar gift to the UK college of Law on November 8, 2019. UKphoto

A $20 million donation has been given to the University of Kentucky College of Law by an alumnus and native Lexingtonian, university officials announced Friday.

The single donation — the third largest in university history — is a gift from Cincinnati philanthropists J. David and Dianne Rosenberg, UK President Eli Capilouto told a crowd in the auditorium of the newly-renovated $53 million law school, which will be formally dedicated later this month.

As a result of the grant, Capilouto has recommended that the University Senate and Board of Trustees agree to formally rename the college the J. David Rosenberg College of Law. It would be the university’s third named college, behind Gatton College of Business and Economics and the Lewis Honors College.

Rosenberg, a Lexington native, graduated from UK’s law school in the early 1970s. Since then, he has practiced law at the Cincinnati firm Keating, Muething and Klekamp, where he’s a senior partner.

J. David Rosenberg, and his wife Dianne, gave a $20 Million dollar gift to the UK college of Law on November 8, 2019. Photo by Mark Cornelison | UKphoto Mark Cornelison UKphoto

“We invest in education — to honor those upon whose shoulders we stand who made our success possible, but also as an investment of faith in the future, the idea that what these students will compose and create as lawyers and leaders — ideas, laws and public policy — will deepen not only our understanding of the law, but how our society can be more just,” Rosenberg said.

The donation will support programming and establish an endowment to provide merit scholarship money to future generations of law students, and support staff retention through namesake positions, including the J. David Rosenberg Professor of Law and the J. David Rosenberg College of Law Scholar.

For Capilouto, the gift was personal. In getting to know one another over the last year, Rosenberg and Capilouto discovered they have a lot in common.

“We bonded over the unique experience of growing up Jewish in the segregated South,” said Capilouto, a Montgomery, Alabama native.

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UK College of Law building on October 10, 2019. Mark Cornelison UKphoto

“Not only are we the same age, but our stories are alike. Our parents and grandparents immigrated to this country between 1880 and 1920, after which our country pretty much closed its doors to immigrants, making it nearly impossible for other family members and co-religionists to escape Nazi Germany extermination,” he said.

The pair bonded over their affinity for legal history as it relates to religious freedom, including a letter President George Washington wrote to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island in 1790, which Capilouto said “has profound relevance for today.”

In it, Washington wrote of the importance of tolerance as “an inherent right,” saying the federal government “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” he said — something the country today “still struggles to fully grant.”

Rosenberg “knows that the laws, lawyers and Colleges of Law are fundamental to our democracy, justice, fairness and a free and pluralistic society,” Capilouto said.

“Their gift today reminds us of how vital and fundamental teaching and education are in shaping us, guiding us and opening up to all of us the powerful idea that anything is possible.”

Alex Acquisto covers health and social services for the Lexington Herald-Leader and She joined the newspaper in June 2019 as a corps member with Report for America, a national service program made possible in Kentucky with support from the Blue Grass Community Foundation. She’s from Owensboro, Ky., and previously worked at the Bangor Daily News and other newspapers in Maine.
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