LEXINGTON, Ky. — University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law celebrated the 2023 Law Alumni Association Hall of Fame & Alumni Awards recipients at a reception June 21 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Lexington.
The Hall of Fame was established to acknowledge graduates and former faculty of the college whose extraordinary professional success and contributions, profound positive influence on the college, and high degree of character and integrity are recognized by their peers. Inclusion in the Hall of Fame is the highest honor bestowed by the college. The 2023 Hall of Fame inductees were Professor Emeritus Allison I. Connelly; Professor Christopher Frost (honored posthumously), and David Y. Olinger Jr.
In addition to the Hall of Fame induction, the Law Alumni Association with UK Rosenberg Law Dean Mary J. Davis presented the 2023 Alumni Awards to Kimberly Henderson Baird (Professional Achievement Award); Judge Janie McKenzie-Wells (Community Service Award); Eric C. Straub (Young Professional Award); Judge Jason S. Fleming (Distinguished Jurist Award); and Professor Chauncey E. Brummer (Legacy Award).
Hall of Fame inductee Allison I. Connelly (UK Rosenberg Law ’83) joined the faculty at the law school in 1996 as the first director of the college’s Legal Clinic. Prior to joining the faculty, Connelly spent 13 years as a state public defender, providing direct representation – including death penalty representation – to needy individuals at all levels of the criminal justice system.
Connelly rose through the ranks to become the only woman ever named as Kentucky’s Public Advocate, the head of Kentucky’s statewide public defender system.
Hall of Fame inductee Christopher Frost (UK Rosenberg Law ’86) was honored posthumously. He joined the college’s faculty in 1998 after serving on the faculty of Saint Louis University and prior to this practicing bankruptcy and commercial law with Sidley & Austin in Chicago. While at Saint Louis University, he also served as a visiting professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and UK Rosenberg Law. .
Frost taught contracts, bankruptcy, secured transactions, and payment systems at UK and his research focused on corporate bankruptcy law.
Hall of Fame inductee David Y. Olinger Jr. (UK Rosenberg Law ’76) retired as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky on July 3, 2017. He played varsity basketball for four years at Berea College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in history and political science. He then served four years in the U.S. Navy before receiving his juris doctor from UK.
Olinger spent the first four years of his legal career working for the Kentucky Department of Transportation. In 1980, Olinger began his federal prosecutor duties handling condemnation and general civil matters. For the last 25 years, he served as the asset forfeiture coordinator.
The Professional Achievement Award recognizes noteworthy accomplishment in a given year but may be given to one who has achieved and sustained an extraordinary level of excellence in a particular area of law. Kimberly Henderson Baird (UK Rosenberg Law ’96), the 2023 recipient, is the first African American female in Kentucky to serve as Commonwealth’s Attorney and the first African American in Fayette County to serve in the role of Commonwealth’s Attorney. Baird began her career as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in 1996 and was promoted to First Assistant in 2016.
The Community Service Award is given to the graduate who has provided outstanding leadership in their community, state or nation to aid and benefit causes not necessarily related to the legal profession. The 2023 recipient, Judge Janie McKenzie-Wells, ret., (UK Rosenberg Law ’86) is the current national president of the UK Alumni Association. She was admitted to the practice of law in 1986, and is admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, and the U.S. District Courts of the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky. She is also a certified general civil and family law mediator.
In November 2006, McKenzie-Wells became the first woman elected as 24th Circuit Court Judge, consisting of Johnson, Lawrence and Martin counties in Eastern Kentucky, where she served until January 2023.
The Young Professional Award is given to an individual who graduated within the past 10 years and has distinguished themselves professionally in the community, or in some other fashion. Eric C. Straub (UK Rosenberg Law ’17) is this year’s recipient. He joined Whitlow, Roberts, Houston & Straub in Paducah, Kentucky in 2017 and has significant experience in both testate and intestate estates, handling contested and uncontested estate matters, creditor’s claims, will contests, litigation involving decedents’ estates and filing Kentucky inheritance tax returns. He is a top-rated estate planning and probate attorney recognized by Super Lawyers as a Rising Start in 2020-2023.
Straub is engaged in the community, serving as 2022-2023 president of the Rotary Club of Paducah and on the Paducah Young Professionals’ Steering Committee. The Paducah Chamber of Commerce named Straub as the 2023 Young Leader of Western Kentucky.
Judge Jason S. Fleming received this year’s Distinguished Jurist Award, given to someone who has distinguished themselves through a contribution of outstanding service to the legal profession. Fleming serves as Circuit Judge, Family Court, Division 3 of the 3rd Judicial Circuit, which consists of Christian County. Before his election to the circuit bench in November 2006, Fleming was assistant Christian County attorney from 1998 to 2006. He was in private practice with Thomas, Arvin & Fleming in Hopkinsville, Kentucky from 1997 to 2000 and had a solo practice from 2000 to 2003.
Fleming has received numerous awards, including 2011 Outstanding Young Lawyer by the Kentucky Bar Association’s Young Lawyers’ Section and 2023 Outstanding Judge by the Kentucky Citizens’ Foster Care Review Board. He is also a recipient of the Kentucky Bar Associations’ CLE Recognition Award and Pro Bono Award, both of which he has received multiple times. He is the only prosecutor to receive the Kentucky Public Advocate Award, presented to him in 2006 by the Department of Public Advocacy.
The Legacy Award is bestowed upon an individual who graduated 50 or more years ago and has demonstrated exceptional leadership in their profession and/or community and has made a positive impact on the well-being of the UK Rosenberg College of Law, the Commonwealth of Kentucky or elsewhere in the nation. Chauncey E. Brummer (UK Rosenberg Law ’73), enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves after receiving his bachelor’s degree. After graduating from law school, he joined the Louisville Legal Aid Society and established the state’s first “Community Legal Education Program” designed to inform the poor and other citizens of their legal rights and responsibilities. In 1974, Brummer was hired as attorney and assistant general solicitor of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company.
In 1979, Brummer accepted a tenure-track appointment to the faculty of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he taught family law, torts and juvenile justice. After accepting an offer to serve as an exchange summer visiting professor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, he was recruited to a permanent position on the faculty and later became the first African American to be promoted to full professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law. During Brummer’s 35 years at the University of Arkansas, he became known as the leading expert in Arkansas domestic relations law.
—By Shawntaye Hopkins, J. David Rosenberg College of Law