SPA and WCL professor dies from COVID-19 at 66

Joseph Kaplan was a ‘consummate mentor’ to students, SPA colleague says

SPA and WCL professor dies from COVID-19 at 66

Joseph Kaplan taught in SPA and WCL.

Joseph Kaplan, an adjunct professorial lecturer in the School of Public Affairs, died at the age of 66 on Wednesday as a result of the coronavirus, according to an SPA statement published Friday.

Kaplan first joined SPA in 2009 as a member of the Key Executive Leadership Programs, which provides professional support for public executives. He also taught courses at the Washington College of Law.

“Joe was a consummate mentor. He was a wonderful and very, very generous man. He was very generous with his time with colleagues and also with students,” said Patrick Malone, director of the Key Executive Leadership Programs.

Kaplan co-founded the Passman & Kaplan, P.C. law firm in 1990 to assist clients – mainly employees and unions – in the United States and abroad. He won a number of precedent-setting victories.

Andrew Perlmutter, principal of Passman & Kaplan, said in a statement Thursday that Kaplan left an indelible mark on the law firm.

“We hope to honor his legacy by continuing the fight to defend the rights of employees, even though we know that such a giant in this field can never be replaced,” Perlmutter said.

SPA Dean Vicky Wilkins said Kaplan was deeply committed to his work at SPA and WCL.

“He had such a sharp knowledge of the law and such a passion for what he did,” Wilkins said.

His daughter Liza Kaplan said she remembered his face lighting up when he talked about being an adjunct professor. She said she thinks teaching was one of his callings.

“We’ve gotten so many messages from students – current and former – about the lessons that he taught them,” she said.

Kaplan often had a smile on his face and loved baseball, Wilkins said. 

Malone told The Eagle that his favorite memory of Kaplan was when he told Malone over email that he wouldn’t attend a faculty meeting. Kaplan, a Washington Nationals season ticket holder, said Malone should never schedule a faculty meeting on Opening Day.

In addition to baseball, Kaplan was also interested in theatre, and he was the president of Hexagon, a nonprofit organization that puts on original shows to raise money for local charities.

Kaplan had a wife, three daughters and two grandchildren.

Ashley Kaplan, Joseph Kaplan’s daughter who described him as a healthy man, said she found out that her father contracted the virus at the end of March.

“He had had a cough for a couple weeks but kept thinking it was just a cough and didn’t seem that bad,” she said. “It just escalated from there.”

Kaplan said her father should be remembered for his love and devotion to his family.

“He was truly one of the most amazing people I knew. He was really the rock of our whole family,” she said.

saustin@theeagleonline.com, kcarolan@theeagleonline.com

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