Opportunity knocks

Lawyer Issac Vaughn ’84 builds institutions that create opportunities.

Named one of America’s top black lawyers by Black Enterprise magazine and one of the top lawyers under 40 by California Lawyer, Issac Vaughn ’84 is passionate about building institutions that create opportunities.

A partner at the Palo Alto law firm, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where he specializes in representing emerging companies through all stages of growth, including introductions to angel investors and corporate partners, Vaughn has worked on the successful IPOs of companies like E-Loan, Bamboo.com, Liquid Audio, and Blaze Software.

But it’s his work with entrepreneurs like Gene Wade that excites him the most. Wade has launched two companies in the past five years, starting with the co-founding LearnNow, a national network of charter schools to serve students from low-income communities, which, with Vaughn’s help, was acquired by Edison Schools in 2001 for 30 million. Now Vaughn is representing Wade’s new, VC-backed venture, Platform Learning, also in the education field.

By supporting Wade and others doing similar work, Vaughn says, not only “are we spawning the next generation of entrepreneurs” but “we’re also increasing the number of companies being started and scaled by people of color and women.” This, according to Vaughn, is important because successful start-ups create jobs and wealth and are effective vehicles for transferring knowledge.

A Michigan Law School graduate and SCU’s first African-American All-Conference quarterback, Vaughn credits the Santa Clara for teaching him the value of an education. “It was clear to me from day one that I was there to compete as an athlete, but I was also there to get an education. There was an unwavering commitment to education—both on the University’s part and by the level of athletes they recruited.” He also developed some long-lasting friendships at SCU. For example, David Drummond ’85, a teammate of Vaughn’s, who later practiced with him at Wilson, is now the general counsel and head of corporate development for Google.

But Vaughn says the most significant part of his SCU experience was meeting his wife, Maria (Nash) Vaughn ’86. SCU President Paul Locatelli, S.J., presided at their wedding at the Mission and Santa Clara has continued to be a big part of the couple’s life. Both of their children, Jacqueline and Joseph, have attended SCU’s Kids on Campus and Vaughn has served two terms on the University’s Board of Regents and is currently on the Athletic Advisory Board.

—Kim Kooyers is a freelance writer in San Jose.
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