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Destination: Seton Hall Law

Nicholas Smith ’13 - from Kansas to Virginia, Iraq, Hawaii, Los Angeles and now, New Jersey

A top athlete, a military officer, and Seton Hall Law student , Nick Smith ’13 would tell you, “The best three decisions of my life have been 1) asking my fiancée, Niki, to marry me; 2) enlisting in the Marine Corps; and 3) choosing to study at Seton Hall Law.”

Smith credits his family and the importance they placed on teamwork as the foundation of his early athletic success. He said, “My parents raised my six siblings and me to be extremely close. My father was a football coach and my younger brothers were gifted athletes, so sports were a way of life for me. I played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track in high school.” Smith had the opportunity to join state championship teams in football, basketball, and baseball and those victories led to a football scholarship at Pittsburg State University, his father’s alma mater.

Smith was a freshman at Pitt State when the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11, 2001, which led to his life-changing decision to join the Marines. He said, “I’ll never forget my coach describing to the team the horrible events that unfolded in New York City. Fortunately, the Marine Corps recruiter convinced me that I should go to Officer’s Candidate School, ‘OCS’ for short. I went to school during the academic year, and during the summers I attended OCS, which is basically boot camp for officers. After I graduated college I was commissioned as a second lieutenant.”

Smith was stationed in Hawaii as an infantry officer, serving as the platoon commander of 50 marines. Again, teamwork played a role in his success: “We trained together and prepared ourselves to deploy to Iraq. My unit was part of ‘The Surge of 2007.’ I was lucky to be surrounded by good people and we had a successful campaign.”

Smith was stationed in Hawaii after his first deployment, a wonderful respite from battle: "Hawaii is a beautiful place, but it is hard to put into words just how beautiful it looked after being in a war zone for nearly a year." He was further promoted to Executive Officer of the rifle company, which is second-in-command of 200 marines. In March 2009, he was deployed for a second time to Iraq, and returned to Hawaii in October. A week after his return he met his fiancée, who had come from Los Angeles to vacation in Hawaii. Smith persuaded her to take another vacation to visit him the following month.

After Smith completed his four years of service with the Marine Corps, he and a few military friends traveled the world, during which time he decided to apply to law school. He says, “I actually flew to Australia to take my LSAT in February because Australia is the only country outside the U.S. to offer the LSAT test. In hindsight, I wouldn’t recommend doing that. There is probably a better way than traveling from Bangkok, Thailand to Australia to study for the LSAT!”

While he initially attended a law school in California to be with his fiancé, he made a practical decision to move east: “After a year of being stuck in LA traffic and wanting to be closer to Wall Street, I applied to Seton Hall Law School and was accepted as a transfer student.”

He has not looked back, as he explains: “The people here are great. Facilities are fantastic. It is a first-class program. Seton Hall Law School’s location is second to none. The student body is friendly and they will welcome you with open arms. You do not see that at many institutions because of the hyper-competitive atmosphere that often accompanies law schools. But here, I was accepted from day one. It’s a great social and professional network. From my own experience, I would encourage students from outside the area to apply.”

Now in his third year, Smith participates in the Investor Advocacy Project, a program in which students advocate on behalf of low-income individuals who have lost retirement savings as a result of fraudulent investment practices. After he graduates, he will work at Citigroup in Washington D.C.

Smith also remains involved in the Marine Corps, having joined an inactive reserve unit (MTU-17, New York City). But he volunteers as well: “This spring I will assist Kevin Ainsworth and Edward Larkin with the, 51st Annual New York Leatherneck Scholarship Ball, which raises money for the children of service members who have been killed in combat so that their kids will be able to attend college. The foundation serves a great purpose and I look forward to doing anything I can to help.”

If you interested in helping the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, please visit www.LeatherneckBall.org or contact Major Edward Larkin, USMC (Ret) at edward.larkin@mcsf.org. The Leatherneck Scholarship Ball will be held on Friday, April 19, 2013.