Looking Out for Small Towns

K. Gus Vlahadamis

K. Gus Vlahadamis is one of three siblings to earn degrees from UW-Madison.

K. Gus Vlahadamis (’84 BBA, ‘85 MBA, ’92 JD) grew up a city kid in Milwaukee, but he cares about the young people and communities in rural Wisconsin.

He has established the Vlahadamis Law Firm Scholarship in the University of Wisconsin Law School, and once it is endowed, he would like it to support Wisconsin students outside of Dane and Milwaukee counties interested in practicing in rural Wisconsin.

“People who were born outside of Milwaukee and Dane County probably have a bigger challenge on their hands deciding whether to go to a bigger firm in a bigger city or going home and maybe being more of a town lawyer,” said Vlahadamis, whose Vlahadamis Law Firm is based in Houston, Texas. “You’re always worried over time that people are concentrating on the cities and leaving Wisconsin. I’d like to play a part in strengthening the rural part of the state.”

The son of Greek immigrants – “my father left to escape the civil war” of the late 1940s – Vlahadamis was the first of three siblings to graduate from college, and all three have earned UW-Madison degrees. “For my father especially, education was really important,” he said. “He couldn’t finish his studies, given the war. He had to leave for employment opportunities. He paid for all of our undergraduate degrees. Coming from a manual laborer, it was really impressive that he could do that.”

After earning bachelor’s and MBA degrees from the Wisconsin School of Business, Vlahadamis was working as a financial analyst. “A lot of the work I was doing had tax implications,” he said. “I went to Law School to get a better tax background and focused my studies in that area.”

Vlahadamis has carved out a high-demand niche for his practice. “My main area of specialization is international estate planning,” he said. “I help foreign nationals coming to the U.S. or wealthy Americans invest offshore and in other countries. Most of my practice has been in Houston. It’s a very international city. There are a lot of international oil companies here like Shell and Exxon who have a lot of inpats and expats going in and out. I do a lot of tax planning and family planning.

“It’s a fairly specialized area,” he said. “There aren’t many people who do what I do.”

Vlahadamis took a long view in setting up the scholarship. He will make annual gifts over 10 years to reach the endowment level, and, through a trust, he set up a life insurance policy that one day will fund the scholarship further. “There are a lot of tax reasons to do the policy, and I thought it was important to make a substantial gift that way,” he said. “I plan to give each year for the rest of my life, and life insurance is a great way to fund it further.”

When he’s asked to judge moot court or international competitions at the University of Texas School of Law, Vlahadamis is reminded of the education he received at Wisconsin. “Especially in the areas of international law and tax law, I feel like I got a great education and am really indebted to the School,” he said. He singled out Emeritus Professor Charles Irish as an inspiration. “He was the most influential for me,” Vlahadamis said. “He taught me a lot about tax policy.”