Alumni Features

Alum Q&A: How Dedman College Helped Shape
Attorney Jonathan R. Childers’ Career


Jonathan R. Childers graduated from SMU in 2002 with a double major in English and History. He graduated from SMU Law in 2005.

How did your experience at SMU prepare you for your career and life beyond SMU?

SMU provided me access to professors who pushed me to think, to alumni and a business community eager to see me and others succeed, and to life-long friends, with many of whom I also do business. 

How did Dedman College prepare you for law school?

Business trial lawyers must digest complicated facts, streamline them into concise and convincing arguments, and then present their arguments thematically and simply before judges and juries. Dedman College provided me the building blocks for these skills: how to examine problems from multiple angles; how to write clearly and with precision; and how to apply an analytical framework no matter the subject matter.

Were there any specific undergraduate classes that you remember taking that stood out? If so, what made it so memorable?

The Age of Jefferson with James “Doc” Breeden. The class taught me that finding the best solution requires examining from multiple viewpoints and considering many perspectives. 

Elizabethan Poetry by Willard Spiegelman. Dr. Spiegelman showed me that if you can dissect and understand a sonnet, you can dissect and understand a legal issue.   

The Age of Shakespeare by Michael Holahan. Through this class, I discovered that language matters and is an economic force. The best advocates use words to articulate exactly what is intended or felt, in order to obtain justice.  

In what ways do you like to give back to the SMU community?

I’m a member of the Dedman College Executive Board. Dean DiPiero values feedback from alums and I enjoy participating and learning from the group. 

I’m also a former member of the SMU Alumni Board and chaired its Volunteer Engagement Committee. We implemented an internship program to connect SMU undergrads with business leaders in their field of interest. Hundreds of students and alums have participated.  

As former chair of the SMU Young Alumni Board, we developed social media platforms to keep recent graduates connected with SMU.   

I swam for SMU, enjoy supporting and attending SMU athletics, and helped raise funds for the new Robson & Lindley Aquatics Center. 

What does SMU mean to you?

SMU enables those who seek opportunity to find it. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to current students?

Watch Steve Jobs’s 2005 Commencement Speech on YouTube.  Live deliberately.  This is your life—don’t just go through the motions. Enjoy learning, strive to find what you are truly passionate about, and have the courage and confidence to make a positive impact. 

What is one career achievement that you are most proud of?

Winning a joint $93 million jury verdict in a West Texas oil and gas fiduciary duty dispute.