Never Too Busy to Give Back

Reeves Whalen ’02 engages the law and … everything else

by Tony Moore

Reading about Reeves Whalen '02 is going to make you feel like an underachiever. It just is, so brace yourself.

Whalen has accomplished a lot since graduating from Dickinson, and it's a point that's hard to oversell. He's met with U.S. presidents, done charitable work in Haiti, won wide-ranging awards. He's dedicated and accomplished, and a familiar thread emerges as he talks about everything he's done, running through his entire narrative. "I owe much of who I am and what I strive to become to my experiences at Dickinson," he says. "My time there prepared me to take on the world."

And he certainly has taken on the world. In the decade since he left Dickinson to attend law school in Colorado, the former history major and current Burg Simpson lawyer has been listed as a Colorado Super Lawyer Rising Star (a list that only includes 2.5 percent of Colorado lawyers), was named a top 100 Colorado trial attorney by the National Trial Lawyers, was awarded the Progressive Young Leadership Award by the American Constitution Society and at 31 was recognized as a Denver Business Journal Forty Under 40.

Outside the law office

When not being honored for his legal skills, Whalen has been recognized by the Clinton Foundation as a Young Philanthropist (and met President Clinton in 2012 to discuss his work in Haiti), has served on President Obama's Gen44 Colorado Campaign Finance Team (and his reelection campaign) and was appointed to the Fix the Debt Campaign's Colorado Steering Committee to address the country's fiscal crisis. Whalen's community and political leadership also earned him a spot in the Harvard University Kennedy School Executive Education Program, from which he graduated in 2013.

This is more than a little impressive, and as you might imagine, someone on the fast track like this doesn't have a lot of spare time ("My wife says I should start focusing on getting off my phone and get my mind away from the office," Whalen says). But Whalen manages to add more charitable work to his load than most people who put in half his hours at work.

"I've had a chance to expand my role in the community through my work as a youth mentor and commitment to public service," Whalen says. This community work includes mentoring annually as an attorney guest teacher with urban youth in the Denver Public Schools and working to establish long-term educational funding for Colorado kids through his appointment to the Citizen Planning Advisory Committee. He's also volunteered on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and served in Haiti with the Center of Hope Orphanage Project.

A family tradition

It's clear that Whalen, when not working, likes to spend time with and help young people, and the one closest to his heart is his sister Prudence, whom Whalen will accompany to campus in August as she too begins her Dickinson career.

"I greatly encouraged her to consider Dickinson," Whalen says. "I was profoundly impacted by my time there and I wanted a similar experience for her. She is African American, and I was really impressed with Dickinson's diversity outreach over the past few years."

Whalen and his sister come from a remarkable family. The son of a lawyer who was a huge influence on Whalen's career path, he is one of 12 children, and six of his siblings were adopted—a multicultural, varied group that undoubtedly has spurred the pursuit of his array of off-the-clock causes.

Of all of them, Whalen says he's closest to Prudence. "So it was very important to me that she made the right college decision," he says. "We visited Dickinson in November 2012, and Prudy fell in love with the school and the campus. I wanted this to be her own choice, but I couldn't be more proud with the decision she made—Dickinson has now become a family tradition."

Read more

Whalen's full biography at the Berg Simpson Web site 

Published May 9, 2013