Clippinger fulfills longtime desire to become a lawyer

It is often said that, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

However, a 72-year-old member of the Altoona community persistently defies this old saying.

Don Clippinger has spent years as an established journalist and publicist, but he recently surpassed the milestone of completing law school and passing his bar exam.

Clippinger’s education began in suburban Pittsburgh, and he graduated college from Wesleyan University in Connecticut in 1966. His passion for law began during his last semester at Wesleyan, when he took a constitutional law course that captured his interest.

“I decided in college to take the constitutional law course because I was becoming interested in the interactions between the law and journalism,” Clippinger said.

In 1966, he took up work with the Pittsburgh Press while also attending Duquesne University’s night law school program.

Clippinger left the law school program at Duquesne after only five months when he decided to seriously pursue journalism.

He moved from the Pittsburgh Press to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he became the night city editor in 1970. In 1971, he began working for the Philadelphia Inquirer before moving back to the Post-Gazette in 1973. He returned to the Inquirer once more in 1975 and worked as assistant business editor and suburban editor.

A few years later, in 1977, Clippinger developed an interest in English steeplechase racing after reading a Dick Francis mystery novel on the subject. He took advantage of his then home in Chester County, west of Philadelphia, to explore the world of horse racing in America.

This newfound passion led him to not only make developments in his career but also to meet the woman who would become his wife. While covering the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1983, Clippinger met Audrey Korotkin, who was a sports reporter and anchor for WBAL Radio at the time. They married in 1989.

“We’ve really shared this journey together and supported each other every step of the way,” Korotkin said.

After getting married, Clippinger continued to work for different Thoroughbred industry trade publications. He served as the editor for the Thoroughbred Record and the editorial director of the Thoroughbred Times. He retired from his position with the Thoroughbred Times in 2009.

In 2004, he and Korotkin, who had left her previous career to attend rabbinical school, bought a house in Tyrone. After moving to Blair County, Korotkin was hired as a rabbi of Temple Beth Israel, and Clippinger continued to follow his love of steeplechase racing by taking up work for the steeplechase association in 2010.

Clippinger’s rapport in the horse racing world opened the doors for him to get involved in politics when his name came up for the vacancy on the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission. He soon gained the support of the Senate leadership.

With his career in steeplechase serving as only a half-time job, Clippinger took advantage of his free time and decided to revisit the unfinished business of completing law school.

He attended Kaplan University’s Concord Law School, beginning the online program in September 2012. He graduated in the top half of his class and went on to pass the California Bar Exam in February on his first try.

Having passed the bar exam through the California Bar Association, Clippinger can now practice certain types of law. One of these is immigration, for which he has developed a particular interest.

“A big part of immigration law is bringing families together when they’ve been separated,” he said. “We’ve entered an era where immigration is controversial. Immigration law works within a framework to make sure the system works fairly.”

Over the course of his careers from journalism to law, Clippinger has learned much about working and communicating with people.

“Even though we work with laws, work with state governments, work with the local governments, I think what journalism does more than anything else is it brings us in touch with people,” he said. “We may have more empathy for people as a group just because we interact with them.”

Clippinger’s success in accomplishing new goals even at the age of 72 is a tribute to his work ethic.

“The amount of work, the commitment, the hours that he put in, and just the way he arranged his life to make this work (is impressive),” Korotkin said. “The way that he segmented his time so that he could fulfill his responsibilities to his clients because he does have a day job, and the way that he fulfilled the needs for himself, for his course work, for his studies, his lectures and never stopped having time for me and the family.

“It takes a tremendous amount of energy, self-confidence and the ability to structure yourself that way.”

Clippinger’s love for education has also been a driving force in his life.

“He learns and grows,” Korotkin said. “We moved into this area because he thought that he was ready to retire, and he wanted to be close to his family and not far from my family. I don’t think he’ll ever retire, and I don’t think he ever can retire because this is what keeps him going. He finds things that he’s really good at that he’s really passionate about, and that gives him his energy and his enthusiasm for life.”

The judge who administered Clippinger’s oath this summer was impressed with his determination.

“It was inspiring for me and the staff of my chambers, including attorneys already admitted to the bar and aspiring law student interns, to witness the culmination of Don’s longstanding pursuit of becoming an attorney,” Renee Cohn Jubelirer said. “His achievements are proof that it is never too late to realize one’s dreams.”

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