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Joe Kaplan

At the law firm of Passman & Kaplan, Joseph V. Kaplan talks to his clients while surrounded by his Penn State honors on the Ellen and Joe Kaplanwalls of his office. Mr. Kaplan also received his Juris Doctorate in 1978 from Gonzaga University and received his Masters of Laws, LL.M. from George Washington University National Law Center, specializing in Labor and Employment Law. The 1975 alum has accomplished many things in his life. Along with the many accomplishments, Mr. Kaplan most importantly honors his experience and memories at Penn State.

“I remember almost everything at Penn State,” said Joseph Kaplan, who is a founding principal of Passman & Kaplan. “I especially remember Penn State Abington very favorably because I was involved in so many activities there.” His favorite class was a political science class with Professor Steve Petkov. Joseph was actively involved with Student Government from the start. He was the president of the Student Government Association (SGA) at Penn State Abington during his sophomore year. As an assemblyman for the SGA before becoming the president, Mr. Kaplan was involved in efforts to raise the stature of the commuter campuses. He is most proud of his efforts to change the charter of the University Faculty Senate so that students at commuter campuses could also vote in the elections for the Senate’s student members, which elections previously had been limited to students at University Park. SGA is also where he became close friends his then-future wife, now Ellen Gottlieb Kaplan. While at Abington, Joe was elected to the University-wide Liberal Arts Student Council, the first time a student from a commuter campus won such an election. From there, Joe would go on to be elected President of the Academic Assembly, one house of legislature of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG).

Another memorable moment for Joe at Abington campus occurred in the spring of 1973. Joseph and his friends were clustered around a radio, listening to the numbers getting called for the lottery for the draft during the closing years of the Vietnam War. Anxious and scared with his fellow students, Joseph, to this day, still remembers his number (86) and relief that his number was high enough so that it was unlikely that he would actually be drafted. Joe also recalls elements of social life at PSU Abington. For example, Pinochle was a very popular card game among students at the Abington campus. Although Joe didn’t play, his now-wife Ellen got so enthralled with playing that she (at least once) forgot to go to class. Friday night “coffee houses” were popular events in Lares on campus. Joe remembers seeing an unknown dup perform. That duo went on to become known as the hugely popular group Hall and Oates.

In regards to his life as a practicing attorney, Joe says “I love helping people who are going through problems and work and helping to make their work-lives better.” His first position was with the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), where he was involved in labor litigation and negotiations. Mr. Kaplan’s practice concentrates in the areas of employment, labor and discrimination law. He primarily represents Federal Government employees and labor unions. While Joe also represents private sector employees, his reputation has been built on the representation of federal government employees.

In addition to running a successful practice, Joe has authored several books to help attorneys and employees with legal issues. He is the lead editor and co-author of the Federal Employees Legal Survival Guide, now in its third edition, co-author of a reference book on litigating federal-sector employment disputes, and the author of six Federal Merit Systems Yearbooks.

Joe and his wife are also proud parents of their three successful daughters; Liz Ashley and Amanda, son-in-law Justin, and now proud grandparents of baby Mallory. When Joe and Ellen aren’t working or spending time with their family, they are doing very meaning philanthropic work by performing with the Hexagon Theater Group – a non-profit group that raises money for local charities by staging an original political satirical musical comedy revue each spring.

We are again Penn State Proud of another fabulous alumni couple who are making a difference in the work world and in their surrounding community. Thank you Joe and Ellen for all you do.

WE are Penn State!

Written By: Hinaa Noor


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