Blazing New Trails
By: Madeleine Thomas
For 2L David Roper, earning an education from The Ohio State University is a family affair.
“Ohio State has always been very special to me and my family,” Roper said. “My dad went here for medical school and I’ve always looked to Ohio State as the pathway to opportunity for me and my family. When I had the opportunity to come here, to stay in my home state with the value of the Ohio State education, it was really a no-brainer for me.”
Before enrolling in law school, Roper spent a year serving the Ohio Senate as a fellow with the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, where he worked for former state senators Shirley Smith, Lou Gentile and Nina Turner. He spent the next two years in the office of State Senator Cecil Thomas, who serves parts of Roper’s hometown in Cincinnati. The experience proved to be a natural segue into the Moritz College of Law, where Roper is pursuing interests in litigation and public policy.
As diversity chair of the college’s American Constitution Society and as vice president of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), Roper is also dedicated to working closely with Moritz’s deans, faculty and administration to continue attracting underrepresented students and people of diverse backgrounds to the college and to improve their experiences in the classroom.
“I’m a product of an interracial marriage so treating people equally and extending opportunities to everybody is something that is really important to me,” Roper said. “I think there are a lot of opportunities to bring more people of diverse backgrounds here and I’m excited that they’re including members of BLSA and members of the Student Bar Association in conversations about how to make that happen.”
In a few months’ time Roper will spend his second summer with the Columbus-based law firm of Taft, Stettinius & Hollister. He also spent last semester in the Capital Habeas Unit at the Office of the Federal Public Defender, Southern District of Ohio, where he worked on several high-profile death penalty cases. Those cases remain confidential, yet the externship provided a critical hands-on opportunity to study evidence and to formulate arguments that provided added context to Roper’s coursework at Moritz.
“They expected me to dive into a large amount of information and to hit the ground running which is great for a law student because at this point you’re out of theoretical and you’re into the real world,” Roper said. “It’s pretty high stakes and it’s really exciting, so that was another great opportunity that Ohio State allowed me to have. I can’t emphasize how amazing that opportunity was.”
The chance to connect with Moritz alumni has also played a formative role in Roper’s law school experience so far. Meeting W. Ray Persons ‘78 at the university’s Celebration of Excellence event last semester is an encounter that Roper still carries with him today. Persons, a litigator based in Atlanta and a Distinguished Alumnus of the college, is also a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, where membership is open to just the top 1 percent of the country’s lawyers. He is also one of 600 people elected to the International Society of Barristers. Persons continues to serve his alma mater as secretary of Ohio State’s Foundation Board and through a merit scholarship that he and his wife endowed to Moritz in honor of their children.
“I want him to know that meeting him has been pretty impactful during my time at Ohio State,” Roper said. “Ray is important to me because he’s a self-made guy. Ohio State helped him get to where he is and he hasn’t forgotten that. Being able to meet him was really inspiring to me.”