“I have known that I wanted to be an attorney since I was a senior in high school. A large part of the reason that I chose to attend Alma College was its proven track record of placing students in law schools.” — Neil Youngdahl
Neil Youngdahl, a 2015 Alma College graduate from Jackson, has been awarded the M.J.J. Smith Society Scholarship, which is awarded to the college’s most outstanding graduating history major. This year, the Smith scholarship carries a $20,000 award to use toward post-graduate study.
Youngdahl will attend law school at the University of Michigan, beginning his graduate work in May 2015. A graduate of Lumen Christi Catholic High School, Neil is the son of Russell and Betsy Youngdahl.
“I have known that I wanted to be an attorney since I was a senior in high school,” says Youngdahl. “A large part of the reason that I chose to attend Alma College was its proven track record of placing students in law schools and providing a strong foundation in critical thinking, argumentation and research.”
Youngdahl completed all requirements for the scholarship, which included the submission of his senior honor thesis, titled: “The Second Amendment: Cultural Trends that Facilitated the Shift from ‘Collective’ to ‘Individual’ Right.”
He also presented a research paper at the Michigan Phi Alpha Theta Regional Conference in March 2014, receiving the “Best Paper in Legal History” award at the conference.
In addition, he was active in Greek leadership as president of his fraternity, and he completed three internships with Consumers Energy.
A member of the Alma College history and pre-law faculty for 32 years, M.J.J. Smith retired in 1997. He had an influential impact on many Alma College alumni who have gone on to careers in law and business.
“My father graduated from Alma College in 1975, so I heard stories about Dr. Smith before I even understood what Alma College was,” says Youngdahl. “To my father, Dr. Smith epitomized the ‘Alma learning experience.’ He challenged his students and was not interested in ‘quicky’ or ‘quacky,’ but if you were willing to do your absolute best, he would support you to the end of the world. He cared about his students, and they care about him and his legacy, and that is the essence of the ‘Alma Experience.’