David Guinn is pictured in his courtroom in Flint.

Finding his passion and paying it forward

The Honorable Judge David Guinn, '94

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“I was hit by a car. I was mad and I took my anger out on my books,” said David Guinn, ’94.

After being hit by a car during his first year at Grand Valley, Guinn dedicated himself to his studies like never before, and said he really read all of the books he carried around for his classes. When he took a required business law class the semester following the accident, his studies kindled a passion for law.

“I had a lawsuit pending against the person who hit me when I was taking my first law class,” Guinn said. “My professor was really good, so I bombarded her with questions. That’s where my love of the law started.”

After graduating from Grand Valley in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Guinn earned a law degree in 1997 from Ohio Northern University. He then worked as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Genesee County until May 2017, when Gov. Rick Snyder appointed him judge for the 67th District Court in the City of Flint. Guinn handles matters ranging from parking tickets to preliminary examinations in felony cases.

Guinn is quick to acknowledge Grand Valley’s role in his success. “My toolbox was full when I left Grand Valley, and I’m still using those tools to this day,” he said.

Guinn also had praise for three men from Grand Valley who were especially helpful in getting him to where he is now: Don Williams Sr., retired dean of Minority Affairs and the Multicultural Center, retired Grand Rapids District Court Judge Benjamin Logan, and former roommate Ray Richards, ’93, now a managing partner for a law firm.

Williams, who was a faculty member at the time, met with Guinn and his family while recruiting students on the east side of Michigan. He not only helped bring Guinn to Grand Valley, but continued to be his mentor. Williams was in charge of what was then called the Minority Business Education Cohort program, which placed Guinn with an internship at Amway, giving him critical corporate experience. Guinn said that opportunity helped teach him new skills while he earned money to pay for college.

Logan agreed to let Guinn job shadow him, allowing Guinn the opportunity to see the positive change and impact a judge can have on his or her community. Logan also helped Guinn earn a partial scholarship to law school and referred him to the Floyd Skinner Bar Association, which connects first-year law students of color with summer clerkships at Grand Rapids firms.

Richards was Guinn’s roommate at Grand Valley who left for law school one year before Guinn. With a year under his belt at Ohio Northern University, Richards helped Guinn acclimate to his new surroundings by guiding him on what classes to take and teaching him how to study at the rigorous level law school requires.

“Those three men pulled, pushed, and kicked me to success,” laughed Guinn. “They helped mold and shape me. I can never pay them back, but I can pay it forward.”

True to his word, Guinn is a mentor to many young men. A member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity since he was at Grand Valley, Guinn serves in the fraternity’s mentorship program for eighth-12th graders. The program offers weekly study time, one-on-one mentoring, community service projects, and group workshops such as Dress for Success and Countdown to College.

“My parents were teachers. They’ve been amazing examples of leadership and giving back to their communities,” he said. “They, too, are a large part of my success and decision to mentor young men.”

Guinn said he believes that you have to be the change in the world that you want to see, a message he repeatedly emphasizes to his mentees. He said that the world may take its time to catch up to you, but sees that as no reason not to pursue what you love.

“You have to find your passion and go for it,” Guinn said. “Grand Valley helped me find my passion.”

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