January 8, 2018

Military veteran Evan Atkinson ’17 thought he would be shut out of law school until an SMU scholarship opened the door to a life-changing opportunity.

His journey started years before he ever considered college. The events of 9/11 and the aftermath shaped his profound love of country and call to duty. He enlisted in the military in 2005, straight out of high school. He was drawn to the Army by his natural affinity for its Seven Core Army Values, including loyalty, duty and selfless service.

Expecting to serve four years, Atkinson instead stayed for nine. He grew up in the Army, worked hard, married and had kids. He even took online courses to earn a bachelor’s degree from what he joked was a “fake college.” He knew and loved the Army, and it was comfortable. But it wasn’t enough.

While considering his options for the future, he took the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). Although he scored well, he looked at law school as a long shot. How would he, a soldier from “a little Podunk town outside of San Antonio,” manage law school when he hadn’t even been to a “real” college? But an even bigger question for him: How would he support his family?

One night, as he was driving home from work on base, Atkinson received a call from a “214” number. His heart rate jumped. While still driving, he answered the phone and couldn’t believe what he heard. SMU had accepted his application – and was offering him a scholarship!

He plunged into life as a Dedman School of Law student. He served as editor-in-chief of the SMU Science & Technology Law Review (2016–17), was vice president of the Veterans Law Association and the Association for Public Interest Law, volunteered with Dallas Kids public service project and excelled in legal competitions.

A 2017 cum laude graduate of Dedman School of Law, he now serves as a judicial clerk in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas. After completing the clerkship, he hopes to continue his career in bankruptcy law.

Atkinson says he left SMU with a new perspective.

“While in law school, I was very impressed by the Dallas legal community, both in the importance the community puts on pro bono work and also by SMU alums who go out of their way to help current students and to give back to the school,” he says. “I entered law school believing in the importance of giving back to the community but left with a new understanding of what that means.”

Annual gifts to SMU for current use support scholarships for students such as Evan Atkinson and power every part of the University. Read about Pony Power: Strengthening the Stampede to learn how you can make an immediate impact on today’s students.