Marching on: 5K and dog walk honors late Katie Westbrook

Courtesy of Beth Bauer. Pictured here is Katie Westbrook.

Andrew Cummings | multimedia editor

Oct. 14, 2021

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When Katie Westbrook was 13, she knew she wanted to be a lawyer. 

Westbrook had all of the characteristics of a lawyer, Duquesne law professor John Rago said — she was feisty, curious and smart — and just had “something special about her.” 

But, she was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, which took her life at age 15 — just a few hours before she was to receive an honorary degree from Duquesne’s School of Law.  

After Westbrook passed away on the morning of commencement, her mother Beth Westbrook accepted the honorary degree on her behalf.

“Katie Westbrook’s presence in this law school, I think, unmistakably is still felt today,” Rago said.

In memory of Westbrook, the Duquesne law community will be holding the 20th Annual Katie Westbrook 5K Race & Dog Walk Saturday, October 16, on Academic Walk. Check-in begins at 9 a.m, and the race will begin at 10 a.m. The dog walk begins after the runners start the race.

The event is for all runners, regardless of skill, said assistant director of student organizations and international programs Beth Bauer.

“She knew from the get go [that] she wanted to be a lawyer and she wanted to be a Duquesne lawyer,” Bauer said. 

The event has been going on for 20 years, and Bauer described it as a “really nice,” relaxing, fun event.

For those not interested in running, there will be plenty of other activities to participate in. There will be yard games, a bake sale, snacks and more.

Humane Animal Rescue will be at the event with adoptable dogs. The dogs will be participating in the walk and have adoption information available for those interested.

There will also be a paw print art station. Dogs at the race will be able to dip their paws in ink and put their imprint on paper. This paper will be then be sold at the event.

Steelers tickets will be raffled off as well, there will be one group of four tickets and one group of two tickets.

All of the proceeds for the event will go toward Public Interest Law Scholarships for Duquesne law students. This fund helps students pay for various costs associated with law school.

“I like to think of us as a blue-collar law school…we love giving students an opportunity to make their lives and the lives of the communities they live better,” Rago said.

Participants are able to complete the race remotely if they send in their distance and time along with photos from their route.

Westbrook was a “good listener,” according to Rago. “She sat there like a law student, she listened…For a 14 year old…to have the focus and the drive and the energy she had under the conditions she was in was just remarkable…if you were in her presence for a little bit you’d pick that up instantly,” Rago said.

Registration is $5 for students, $10 for non-students, $20 for day-of sign ups and free for dogs and children 5 years old and younger.

“It’s hard to imagine that she’d be 34. No doubt she would have been a lawyer,” Rago said.