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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.
Blogging into big business
SCU alums turn a hobby into a Web blockbuster
What began as a hobby for Mena Grabowski Trott ’99 has turned into a business with approximately 7.5 million users worldwide. In 2001, Trott’s need for a “creative outlet” became Dollarshort, a Weblog (or blog) of her musings on life, and she became one of what a recent Pew Internet & American Life study estimates to be eight million Web journalists. Shortly thereafter, Mena and her husband, Ben ’99, were unemployed and had ample time to develop a “better” blogging tool, she says.
In October 2001, that tool became the blog publishing program Moveable Type. Initially a pet project they figured they would release to some friends, Moveable Type “became very popular very quickly and became a full-time job for us,” Mena explains. That popularity led the Trotts in July 2002 to launch startup Six Apart, named after the number of days separating their birth dates.
Six Apart has since grown out of the Trotts’ spare bedroom and now has more than 70 employees internationally, from San Francisco to Tokyo and Europe. Two other products have also been developed: TypePad, a hosting service for non-tech-savvy bloggers, and LiveJournal, a blogging online community they acquired in January.
This growth has garnered the couple substantial praise. In 2004, the Trotts were named two of Fast Company’s Fast 50 and PC Magazine’s People of the Year. They also graced Fortune Magazine’s January 10 cover when blogs were named the top tech trend to watch in 2005. While at Santa Clara University, Mena worked for then-Webmaster Rod Myers, now with SCU’s Institutional Research office. She says the English program and SCU’s professors helped her to “think critically about everything.” Former Assistant Professor of Art David Familian opened the door for the studio art minor’s first job out of college as a designer at an educational software company. Meanwhile, Ben, a computer science major, worked on the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics’ Web site.
For now, Six Apart is taking “each day one at a time,” especially with competitors Google and Microsoft on the blogging horizon, Mena Trott says. “We’re trying to grow as a strong, independent company,” she says. “But, the whole point of what we’re doing with Weblogging tools is allowing people to communicate. [Blogging is] a way for people to talk about all the things that they’re passionate about … and it’s sharing online in a way that’s easy and powerful.”
—Michelle Mendieta Mitchell ’01 is the managing editor of two community newspapers and a freelance writer in Atlanta.
A knockout performance
Alumnus acts in “Million Dollar Baby”
Marty Sammon ’56, MBA ’63, has officiated boxing matches throughout the world, including judging the first Oscar De La Hoya-Shane Mosley championship bout. But the largest venue on his resume may be that of the big screen, where he appeared—albeit briefly—as Referee No. 5 in the Academy Award-winning film “Million Dollar Baby.”
“I sent my head shot to Central Casting, they called me, and I did it,” says Sammon, who has judged or officiated 54 world championship bouts either as a judge or a referee. In an interview with The Sweet Science, he admitted to being “a tad bit nervous” walking onto the set with actor and director Clint Eastwood nearby. “But within minutes I felt as comfortable as I do in a boxing ring.”
Sammon was born in Steubenville, Ohio, and came to California as a young boy when his family sought a better life when the steel mills closed. What they found was a life of constant moving in search of work. By the age of 15, Sammon had attended 11 schools.
He says he came to Santa Clara “because the Jesuits had a good reputation as educators and they had a good football team.” After stints on the football and water polo teams at SCU, Sammon, who had boxed as a youth, entered and won a novice tournament and an intramural tournament on campus. He began his refereeing career by officiating matches between inmates at San Quentin Prison in Marin County, Calif.
“I like boxing because it’s one- on-one and you learn a lot about yourself,” says the former finance major. “It’s all you in the ring. You can’t hang it on your parents or your coaches. Like Aristotle said, our universities do a wonderful job of teaching, the only thing they don’t offer is a course on courage. Boxing is a course on courage.”
When he is not in or near the ring, Sammon manages nearly $50 million worth of accounts as senior vice president of investments for Silicon Valley Securities in San Jose. “Half of my business comes from me going to Santa Clara because my classmates became successful and they dragged me along with them,” he says.
—Adam Breen is editor of Santa Clara Magazine.