Katherine L. Vaughns, a University of Maryland School of Law professor and secretary of the Center Stage board who immersed herself in the arts community, died of pancreatic cancer May 4 at a Sinai Hospital hospice unit. The Bolton Hill resident was 68.
"She was a great, great citizen of Baltimore," said Jed Dietz, director of the Maryland Film Festival. "We dedicated the opening night of the Maryland Film Festival to her. She was the most perfect board member. She did more than you asked, often before you asked. She also prodded and pushed you and in the process and helped you get better at what you were trying to do."
He said she was charmed by Baltimore after moving here three decades ago.
"She loved Baltimore because there was something about its lack of pretension and its straightforwardness," Mr. Dietz said. "She could not stand pretension."
Born Katherine Linda Vaughns in Oakland, Calif., she was raised in Berkeley. Her parents were insurance brokers who owned and operated their own agency. She earned a bachelor's degree at the University of California at Berkeley, where she also received a law degree.
She was an assistant U.S. attorney in the civil division for the Central District of California before joining the University of Maryland's Carey School of Law faculty nearly 30 years ago. According to a biographical sketch supplied by the school, she taught immigration law and policy, complex litigation and remedies. She also published articles in her field.
"She was nationally recognized in the field of immigration law," said a colleague and friend, William L. Reynolds, a University of Maryland faculty member. "Students liked her a lot. She was extremely friendly and never had a bad word to say about anyone. And yet she could be caustic at times. After moving to Baltimore, she adjusted very well and became a part of the arts community."
He recalled her service to the American Bar Association and its Commission on Women in the Profession.
"She was invited to Bill Clinton's first inauguration," Mr. Reynolds said, recalling that he also attended the event. "We were seated with the Arkansas delegation. It was so much fun seeing how Kathy was respected by the high-powered women there, many of whom were friends of Hilary Clinton."
She also belonged to the American Bar Association Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
"She was an expert on complex litigation and had a long standing interest in immigration law," said Taunya Lovell Banks, a fellow University of Maryland Carey School of Law faculty member and a Bolton Hill neighbor. "She was strongly interested in linking the law with the arts. She thought in particular that plays helped people understand the problems we face today and that they suggest possible solutions too."
Ms. Banks recalled that while her colleague and neighbor liked film, her first love was the theater. "She was very much a lawyer and was bound by the rules," Ms. Banks said. "She had an infectious smile and was playful. She was a sweet person. And if she loved something, she went 125 percent for it."
After joining Center Stage's board she became its secretary and was on the search committee to select an artistic director.
"Katherine was a brilliant and inspiring woman, with a deep commitment to, and passion for, the arts," said Kwame Kwei-Armah, Center Stage's artistic director. "She served on [our] board for the last 12 years, working on many committees and projects including the Community Engagement Task Force — something very close to my heart —and the Artistic Director Search Committee that brought me to Center Stage. A theater enthusiast, she believed strongly in the power of the arts to transform lives. I was honored to know her. …"
She was also an advocate for smaller theaters, said Elliott Rauh, managing director of Single Carrot Theatre. "She was a welcoming, kind soul," he said. "She was always out and about in Baltimore and was present at so many of the different theaters here. She made it a mission to bring in others who did not know what was happening in the Station North Arts District. She spread the good word."
Funeral services are private. A law school memorial will be held in the fall.
Survivors include a cousin, nieces and nephews. Her marriage to Lloyd Tooks, a California lawyer, ended in divorce.