Maine Law Alumni Profiles

Vendean V. Vafiades

Former judge and Bangor native Vendean Vafiades, ’85, joined Maine Law as Director of Advancement and External Affairs in 2012.

By Trevor Maxwell

Education and justice. As themes, those two words have been at the forefront of Vendean Vafiades’ life for as long as she can remember.

They guided the Bangor native in her work as a private attorney, as an advocate for women and children, as the Chief Judge of the Maine District Court, and as a Commissioner with the Public Utilities Commission.

Fortunately for the University of Maine School of Law, Vafiades recently decided to bring her considerable talents back to her alma mater. She joined Maine Law in the Spring of 2012 as Director of Advancement and External Affairs. Vafiades will be responsible for advancing the Law School on many fronts, including development and community relations. The task includes management of annual fundraising, major gifts initiatives and capital campaigns, and stewardship of the Law School’s relationships with foundations, corporations, government agencies and the broader community.

“It’s a really interesting time to join my colleagues at the Law School. There are so many terrific people who care so much about the school, and who are engaged in setting a course for the future,” Vafiades said. “The Law School offers much to Maine and provides continuing support to the business and legal communities, as well as free legal assistance to vulnerable families and individuals. I’m excited to promote this great legal institution.”

Although Vafiades has learned from each stop in her professional journey, it might have been an experience from her youth that had the most profound impact on her trajectory. She attended South Portland High School after her family moved to the area, and she was an eager participant in the Girls State mock government program, in which she served as Governor. As a junior, Vafiades was one of two high school girls from Maine “elected” to Girls Nation in Washington, D.C.

“We attended in the role of senators, for a week. I had lunch with Margaret Chase Smith, I spent a half day with Everett Dirksen,” Vafiades said. She took on the role of Senate Majority Leader, and she loved the collaboration with other students from across the country. “That experience really sparked my interest in government, public service and education.”

After graduating from the University of Southern Maine with a degree in education, Vafiades worked as associate commissioner of the state Department of Education. She decided to earn her law degree, and she graduated from Maine Law in 1985. Vafiades has served in high-profile volunteer roles as President of the Maine Bar Foundation and President of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. She was also the first woman lobbyist for the Maine Women’s Lobby.

Vafiades said her family never pressured her to become a lawyer, but the career track was once “highly recommended” at a family gathering. Her uncle, Lewis “Lew” Vafiades, was a legendary attorney who founded a firm in Bangor, along with his cousin Nicholas Brountas, in 1957. Lew Vafiades died in 2001, and his wife Marian died last year. They were well-known philanthropists, supporters of the arts and of legal education.

Each year, Maine Law awards scholarships from the Lewis V. Vafiades Scholarship Fund to students with superior academic credentials, with preference given to students who are residents of Aroostook, Piscataquis, Somerset, Penobscot, Washington, Hancock, and Franklin counties.

After law school, Vendean Vafiades practiced in the Augusta area, then in Portland at Bernstein Shur. She moved on to serve as the Chief Deputy Attorney General, then as Chief Counsel to the University of Maine System. In the 1990s Vafiades was recruited by then Gov. Angus King to serve as a District Court Judge, which she did from 1997 to 2007, including posts as Deputy Chief and Chief Judge. She directed juvenile drug courts, dedicated dockets for child protection cases, and the development of Maine’s successful family court model. Vafiades also initiated the domestic violence accountability docket.

In 2007, Vafiades was recruited again, this time by then Gov. John Baldacci, who was looking for someone with an adjudication background to serve on the three-member Public Utilities Commission. The PUC regulates Maine’s, telecommunications companies, suppliers of electricity and gas, water districts and provides consumer protection services .

“Once again I have to credit Maine Law,” Vafiades said. “The courses I took in administrative and regulatory law were very helpful in giving me a solid base in tackling these issues.”

Vafiades received the L. Kinvin Wroth Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Maine School of Law in 2009.

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