“Everyone needs to ask themselves what they can give back,” said David Proaño ’98. “What impact are you making on the world? There will be opportune moments to share time, money and talents unique to each person.”
Proaño has been actively looking for his unique service role since he enrolled at Calvin. He followed his brother, Miguel, who was one year ahead of him at the college.
The brothers were suite-mates in Bolt Hall, and they noted the service emphasis stemming from Calvin’s Christ-centered mission.
“I was a resident assistant my sophomore year,” he said. “I saw how that was an opportunity to touch peoples’ lives, to make students feel welcome and see the Calvin community as a welcoming place.”
Proaño was drawn to biology as a major and worked with professor Randy Van Dragt to spend a semester in his native country of Ecuador working for an ecological foundation doing fieldwork with scientists.
He cites this as a formative time for himself, combining his love of nature with his culture and global interests.
“I liked Calvin’s willingness to consider new ways of learning and giving me a chance to individualize my education,” he said. “Professor Van Dragt was open-minded and a helpful guide.”
After graduation, Proaño enlisted in the Peace Corps with an eye toward continuing in ecological study and got an assignment working with farmers in a rural village in a mountainous region near the southern coast of the Dominican Republic.
He was an agricultural consultant, but found himself more often in a learning role.
“It is humbling to come into a long-standing community such as this. You start with thinking about how you will bring change, but the biggest change happens within you,” he said.
Proaño decided on law school upon his return to the United States, again looking for the best chance to make an impact, knowing how law influences environmental matters. He was accepted into Harvard Law School and found himself well-prepared for the rigor of the renowned institution.
“It was impressive to be around such intellectual and hard-working classmates,” he said. “But I was ready. There’s no reason why a Calvin grad can’t excel at Harvard or any other graduate school.”
His first legal internship was at the Florida office of Earth Justice, an environmental legal defense firm. His second was at BakerHostetler, a prominent national law firm with roots in Cleveland near Proaño’s parents and siblings, again doing environmental work and later complex commercial and administrative litigation.
“It was impressive to be around such intellectual and hard-working classmates. But I was ready. There’s no reason why a Calvin grad can’t excel at Harvard or any other graduate school.” David Proaño
Proaño joined BakerHostetler in 2004 as an associate, and has been there ever since, making partner in 2012.
“I love what I do,” he said. “In whatever case you work on, you have to learn everything about the particular subject matter. It is always a learning process; you are always learning new things.”
Settling in Cleveland, Proaño has also invested his time and energy in Esperanza, a nonprofit that seeks to advance the educational goals of young Hispanics in the Cleveland area. He speaks about the importance of helping the next generation thrive.
His leadership in that organization, along with his professional achievements, has been noticed by civic leaders. Proaño was named in a listing of “Forty Under 40” professionals by Crain’s Cleveland Business last year.
Whether in his law profession or inspiring children in Cleveland schools through Esperanza, Proaño said that his faith has been the foundation of his inquiry and his desire to make an impact.
“Faith gives a level of meaning to life that is not possible without faith,” he said. “Doing what Jesus said you should do—to show mercy, love and kindness—has deep meaning for me.
“You show what’s really in your heart by how you live, how you love others and how you love your God.”