Young Alumnus of the Year: Victor Boutros

October 1, 2015

Awarded to a graduate age 40 or under who has demonstrated remarkable achievement in the previous year

In 1977, the first 11 of 43 biographical children's books known as ValueTales were released. The short, easy-to-read pictorial books--popularly used in homes, schools, churches and pediatric offices for the next two decades--used allegories to teach children a specific value for each featured historical figure.

Jackie Robinson taught children about the value of courage. Helen Keller taught them about determination. Charles Dickens about imagination. A copy of the series' sixth book, authored by Ann Donegan Johnson and Steve Pileggi, found its way into the hands of Victor Boutros, BA '98, when he was no more than 7 and attending Northway Baptist Church in Dallas.

"My mom would take me to the library every Sunday," Boutros says. "I was checking out the same book week after week. It was the story of this tall, lanky lawyer from Kentucky, who grew up to lead this epic battle against slavery in the United States."

It was impossible for him to know at that time, but Boutros was preparing for his career as one of America's leading criminal and civil rights attorneys.

"I was so captivated by that story, the great moral struggle that took place," Boutros says. "I used to imagine, 'What would it be like to be a part of something like that in history? Would I be on the right side? '’m sure it wouldn't be easy.'"

Today, Boutros is on the right side. He has spent most of his career as a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice investigating and prosecuting international human trafficking, hate crimes and official misconduct cases around the country. He also has trained prosecutors and law enforcement professionals on human trafficking investigations and has taught trial advocacy to lawyers from Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa. Previously, Boutros spent time on similar issues in Ecuador and South Africa.

Boutros holds degrees from Baylor, where he studied philosophy, Harvard, Oxford and University of Chicago Law School, from which he earned a juris doctor in 2003. While pursuing a master's degree at Harvard, Boutros met Gary Haugen, now president and CEO of International Justice Mission, a human rights organization. Together they authored And Justice for All: Enforcing Human Rights for the World's Poor and The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence.

The two authors paint a vivid portrait of the way broken criminal justice systems in developing countries spawn "a hidden epidemic of everyday violence" that undermines vital investments in poverty alleviation, education and human rights. The Locust Effect has been featured by The New York Times, The Economist, NPR, the Today Show, Forbes, TED, the BBC and other media outlets.

It was at Harvard that Boutros began to grasp the direction in which philosophy would take him. He was captivated by what Haugen, who had left his civil rights position at the Justice Department to start International Justice Mission, had to say during a speech to students.

"He talked about this new Christian mission organization that was actually living out the Biblical mandate to seek justice and rescue the oppressed," Boutros says. "I was captivated by it. Here are all these people who are desperately suffering from the abuse of power. As I began to meet some of these people, I was acutely aware of the need. (Haugen) brought fresh eyes to the Biblical mandate to seek justice."

Boutros says his first exposure to Baylor was through a fellow Northway Baptist Church member who began at Baylor during Boutros' senior year in high school.

"I remember being really struck by the transformation that had taken place in his life in a short period of time," Boutros says. "His spiritual life had really taken off. It was noticeable, and it was attractive, and it was striking."

Boutros says his visit to Baylor that year sealed the deal.

"I was impressed by the community there, especially the spiritual life," he says. "I was more drawn than I realized at the time to the opportunity to be in this place where people are really serious about integrating faith and reason, where you could explore things really rigorously but with a Christian worldview."

Boutros, who serves as a member of the board of advisors for the Honors College at Baylor, has employed his abilities to think analytically and rigorously as he has pursued his call through involvement with Haugen and the International Justice Mission as well as his work with the Justice Department. His career path also follows the spark instilled in him by his continuous reading of the Abraham Lincoln ValueTales book as a child.

"In the world today, there are more victims of human trafficking or what is sometimes called modern-day slavery than there were in 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade," Boutros says. “This is not something of a bygone era. This is something happening on our watch and in our patch of history that God has given us.

"We have incredible opportunities to really significantly decimate human trafficking and modern-day slavery in a serious way, even in a generation if we really undertake strategic efforts to do so."

Boutros and his wife, Tricia, live in metropolitan Washington, D.C.