From BYU to Ukraine and Back

David Leavitt (BA '88, JD '91) and Chelom Eastwood (BS '88, MS '10, JD '92) met on their first day of law school in 1988. David says, “I saw [Chelom] and immediately shifted priorities from law school to Chelom.” The couple married at the end of their first year. The young couple relinquished traditional jobs with established firms to begin Leavitt & Leavitt in Fillmore, Utah. David specialized in criminal law, Chelom in civil. David served as Juab County Attorney, earning prominence through his prosecution of Utah’s first polygamy case in 50 years. The couple’s career has rubbed off on their seven children. Chelom says, “Our kids often have contracts on their doors indicating who can come in or out, what kind of behavior is expected. Our kids act more like lawyers than we do.”

In 2004, Chelom and David agreed to spend a year in Kiev, Ukraine to assist the Ukrainian government in converting its criminal justice system from a Soviet-style organization to a more democratic system. Their experiences in Ukraine prompted them to create the Leavitt Institute for International Development, which teaches law in 23 Ukrainian and Moldovan law schools. Through the Leavitt Institute, legal professionals have volunteered more than 19,000 hours teaching law students in Ukraine, Moldova, and Rwanda. David says, “Service expands us. It makes us into people that we didn’t know we could become.”

Chelom also developed an expertise in human development and family studies. After receiving a master’s degree from BYU in 2010, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship from the U.S. State Department to teach and conduct research in Ukraine. She then completed a PhD at Pennsylvania State University, where she studied healthy sexuality, and then joined the faculty of Family Life at BYU. Reflecting on her education and career, Chelom can see her personal growth through her struggles. “Thorny issues are important to tackle, and failing sometimes humbles us and gives us the right perspective,” Chelom says. “It actually can refine us into something far more than we ever could have been without the failure.”

 

Full Name: 
David and Chelom Leavitt
Grad Year: 
BS 1988, MS 2010, JD 1992
College: 
Family, Home, and Social Sciences
Major: 
Economics
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