Pink’s not just a color it’s an attitude! – The memory of Katie Westbrook

By Riley Del Rey, Juris Staff Writer

Katie Elisabeth Westbrook’s legacy lives on for 22 years after the teenager, who sported an unforgettable pink wig and whose dream at age 13 was to become a lawyer, lost her battle with a rare bone cancer called osteosarcoma.[1] One day after her 15th birthday and on the day she was to receive an honorary degree from the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Duquesne University, Katie passed surrounded by ones she loved on June 3, 2001 at 7:00am.  

Although Katie was unable to receive her honorary law degree that day, Katie made the commencement in spirit. Her impact is felt at Duquesne and beyond. To this day, her legacy even inspires Hollywood actor Jamie Lee Curtis, who is also an advocate for children’s hospitals. Curtis was visiting Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital when she and Katie first met. Katie surprised Curtis by ripping of her pink wig during a press conference to reveal she had written “Jamie-Lee Curtis Rocks” on her bald head. This led Curtis to ask Katie if she could borrow her pink wig for the charity fundraiser that evening. At the fundraiser, Curtis shared Katie’s message about pediatric cancer patients and raised a fortune for children’s hospital. Katie’s mother donated the infamous wig to Curtis upon Katie’s passing. Now, Curtis dons the pink wig anytime she is advocating for children’s hospitals. [2]

Here at the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Duquesne University, Katie’s spirit lives on in The Katie Westbrook Race Ipsa Loquitor 5k, a Duquesne tradition. Her memory inspires law students every year to actualize their dreams of becoming attorneys and for some to run a 5k.

Katie never wanted to be forgotten. Kerry Westbrook, Katie’s younger sister remembers: “Katie was a huge animal lover. I’m super elated everyone remembers her and comes together in her honor. She was a sweet and loving spirit with a strong sense of justice.” [3] Katie was an advocate for pediatric cancer research and her testimony before a special committee of the United States House of Representatives resulted in the unanimous passage of a resolution calling for more research dollars for pediatric cancer. [4] Her passion and courage will never be forgotten.

During the 11th annual Race Ipsa Loquitor, a dog walk was inaugurated as part of the memorial race[5]. Beth Westbrook, Katie’s mother, also known as Mama Westbrook, shared during the dedication that before Katie dreamed of becoming a lawyer “to represent the underdog”, Katie first considered a career aiding animals by becoming a veterinarian. [6]

Now every year Katie Westbrook traditions include a t-shirt design contest, race day prayer, prizes for the fastest runners, charity drives and fundraisers for animal shelters and public interest scholarships.[7] Over 130 registrants, 24 dogs and one brave cat participated in the 22nd annual Katie Westbrook 5k on September 30, 2023. The event raised $1,500 for Public Interest Law Fellowships. Fastest male was 1L Noah Spicer with a race time of 20:36 and fastest female was athlete Trinity Lockwood-Morris finished with a time of 24:27. Brady Yeager, a 2L, designed the events winning the t-shirt artwork, which consisted of a dog and a runner balancing each side of the scale of justice.[8]

This year the Animal Law Society and Public Interest Law Association co-hosted the race with the help of Student Bar Association volunteers and alongside perennial organizers Beth Westbrook, Duquesne Kline Law Professor John Rago, Assistant Dean of Career Services Maria Comas, Assistant Director of Law Student Organizations Beth Bauer, and Associate Dean for Students Ella Kwisnek.[9]

Katie formed a special bond with our school. Nearly two decades ago, Professor Rago was first contacted by a friend at Children’s hospital who connected him with the inspiring patient. Together, Professor Rago and Dean Comas visited Katie, and subsequently invited Katie to attend her first class at the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Duquesne University on February 19, 2001. On that day, Katie became a member of the Duquesne Kline Law school family. That same year, the members of the Duquesne Law Review dedicated the summer issue of Volume 39 to the life and memory of Katie presented by Dean Nicholas P. Cafardi.[10] In the dedication prayer, Cafardi, shared “Katies unyielding spirit is a reminder that God’s greatest gift is life.”

Duquesne is a special place Katie’s mom visits to remember her daughter. During her speech at the 22nd annual race, Mama Westbrook shared that Katie is Duquesne’s special angel and that Katie lived by the motto ‘Never Give Up’. Katie Westbrook’s spirit will always remind law students that when times get tough and when things seem insurmountable, Katie will be there whispering in our ear to ‘Never Give Up’![11]

Rest In Paradise Katie.


[2] Jamie Lee Curtis leverages her cult films status for charity.


[4] Duquesne Law Review Volume 39, number 4, summer 2001. Dedication Page


[6] Beth Westbrook’s Speech Saturday September 20, 2023 at 22nd annual Katie Westbrook 5k Race.


[8] “The Docket” Week of October 1, 2023 by Beth Bauer.

[9] Marching on: 5k and dog walk honors late Katie Westbrook

[10] Duquesne Law Review Volume 39, number 4, summer 2001. Dedication Page

[11] Beth Westbrook’s Speech Saturday September 20, 2023 at 22nd annual Katie Westbrook 5k Race.

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