By Chris Collins
Kevin Pearson is proud of his roots.
He's the fourth generation of his family to be born and raised in Baker County and to graduate from Baker High School.
Pearson, 42, a 1988 BHS graduate, will address the Class of 2013 as the commencement speaker Sunday.The graduation begins at 2 p.m. at Bulldog Memorial Stadium, if the weather cooperates. If not, the graduates and their families will move inside to the BHS gymnasium.
Pearson was asked to speak because of his successful law career, said Delaney Kee, senior class vice president. And, as an added bonus, he's the uncle of Jessilyn Sayers, one of the graduating seniors and student body secretary.
As a student body officer, Sayers was a member of the committee that invited Pearson to speak. Others were Kee; Henry Shaw, senior class president; Jake Baxter, student body president; and Kellie Freels, student body vice president.
Sayers is the daughter of Pearson's sister, Kathie Sayers. Kathie and her twin, Kereen Holmquist, who lives in Seattle, are 1981 BHS graduates.
Their parents are Larry (whose clan staked its claim in the North Powder area) and Peggy Pearson of Baker City. Peggy's mother is Josephine Snook Dickison of Baker City and her grandmother was Georgia Hudspeth. Georgia and her brothers, Earnest, "Spud" and Wallace Hudspeth, homesteaded in the Sumpter Valley.
Today, Kevin Pearson is a partner in the prestigious Stoel Rives law firm, which he describes as the biggest - with more than 400 lawyers - and possibly the oldest firm in Portland.
En route to his successful career as a tax lawyer, Pearson earned undergraduate degrees in English and economics from Linfield College at McMinnville.
He played basketball at Linfield for three years, which he says was the main focus of his undergraduate study. He says he was never a serious student, maintaining a B-plus average in high school and college - just to keep his father happy.
But once he entered law school that all changed.
Pearson said the study of law capitalized on his skills and interests.
"I just sort of tried to think about what I liked doing and what I was good at," he said.
He enjoyed technical writing and solving puzzles, two traits that he thought would fit well with the analytical thinking required of an attorney.
Apparently, he was right. He earned top grades in law school while developing the skills he'd need to specialize in tax law, negotiating mergers, acquisitions and other business transactions.
Pearson said he hopes to challenge members of the 2013 graduating class to point themselves toward careers that they'll enjoy and that make use of their natural talents as well.
Pearson graduated summa cum laude from the Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane, Wash., in 1996 and then completed his post-doctoral studies at Georgetown University where he clerked for a federal judge in Washington, D.C., for two years.
While serving with the U.S. Attorney's Office, he represented the federal government in court as a supervised intern.
"It was good training for a young lawyer and provided good insight into the court system," he said. "It was a great experience."
Afterward, he returned to Portland to begin his career with Stoel Rives, where he's been ever since.
In his role with the firm, he represents some of the biggest companies in the state and around the country.
"We do a lot of renewable energy transactions," he said. "We have participated in a huge percentage of the wind farms put in. Our firm is a real national powerhouse in renewable energy space."
Pearson and his wife, Kimberly, who own property in the Sumpter area, return to Baker County often with their three young children, ages 5, 3 and 10 months.
As he prepare to speak to this year's graduates, Pearson says he hopes they appreciate the strong foundation they've received at Baker High School.
He remembers his high school teachers as people who pushed their students to help prepare them for the next steps in their lives.
"There were a lot of really good, caring teachers, which I presume is still the case," he said.
Pearson says he'll share with the graduates how often he's run into successful people who got their start in his hometown, including some in his own law firm.
"I've always thought there's something about Baker," Pearson says. "There is a special sense of community you don't feel in other places.
"It has to do with the people, the community, a sense of responsibility and the sense of being held accountable - and people just caring," he added.
Pearson says he's looking forward to addressing the graduates.
"I'm really proud to be from Baker," he said. "It's a privilege and an honor to be invited."