This month we profile Don Fipps of the Del Mar Rotary Club.
 
Currently, Don is the Assistant Governor for Area 3 - Carlsbad Hi Noon, Carlsbad Evening, Tri City and San Marcos.  He is also serving as Governor-Elect Dan Gensler’s chief aide.
 
You may be familiar with Don as the man behind all the District Zoom meetings.  Yes, Don is the brains behind the operations that brings us the Membership seminars, Foundation seminar, District Training Assembly and the monthly guest speaker program.  So, let’s get to know this modern day renaissance man.
 
Don came into existence in Bakersfield, California.  There was - maybe still is - very little arts and culture in Bakersfield.  
 
For what it’s worth, Attorney Tom Baker from Ohio came west in 1863 during the gold rush to  California.  He got waylaid on the banks of the Kern County River.  The town became a stopover for those coming over in search of their fortune.  The area became known as Baker’s Field.  This is the town that shaped young Don’s life.
 
The family moved to Delano in the northern part of Kern County.  
 
Delano is well known because Past District Governor Mel Gallegos is from there.  Delano also has a Home Depot.  
 
Don’s father, Donald was a First Sargent in the National Guard.  Mother Eva was a nurses aide.  And, brother Dennis served in the Navy before recently retiring in San Diego.  Sister Barbara is still in the banking industry back in good old Bakersfield.  
 
Don attended Delano High School where he was a serious water polo and swimming star for the Tigers.  During the summers, Don worked as a lifeguard at the city swimming pool.  He took his work very seriously.  He did not let the young girls distract him from making sure no one drowned on his watch (you can’t make this stuff up).
 
From there he attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he majored in Biochemistry.  His freshman year was funded by a scholarship from the Rotary Club of Delano.  This was Don’s introduction to Rotary.  During his sophomore year he was on the way to the cafeteria when he made a wrong turn and wound up in the ROTC recruiting office.  
 
By joining the ROTC, Don had the last three years of college paid for by scholarship.  He also got into the school football games for free.
 
 
Do you want to know how Don met his fate with Donna McIlwain?  I’m going to tell you anyway.  Donna, a native of Delano and regionally known gymnast, was attending San Poly Luis Obispo at the same time as Don.  Destiny brought them together while working on the Tournament of Roses Parade float.  When Don eyed Donna, he welded her to the float.  True story.  He didn’t want to let her out of his sights.  Love grew and they were married in their junior year.  Over the years they have worked on many floats for the Rose parade.  I just don’t know what to make of that.  
 
Upon graduating, Don obtained a commission in the United States Army.  He served in the army for twenty years with tours of duty in Germany, Panama and Sierra Leone.  In Sierra Leone there was a coup and civil war at the same time.  So Don and his troop left Africa to let them sort out their own disputes. 
 
While in the army he became a registered Medical Technologist.  He also earned a Masters degree in Biology from Bowling Green State University and a certification as a Specialist in Blood Banking.  He retired from the Army in 1997 as a Lieutenant Colonel. 
 
After all that, Don went to work for the American Red Cross in Charlotte, North Carolina, Washington D.C.  Don became Chief Executive Officer of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Region of the American Red Cross Biomedical Services in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania.  While in Wilkes-Barre, he joined the local Rotary club.  As he was about to become president and attend PETS, Don was restructured out of a job by the American Red Cross. 
 
Following Horace Greeley’s admonition ("Go West young man"), Don and Donna headed west to Sacramento to work for BloodSource, an independent blood center as the Administrative Director of Clinical Laboratories.  There he joined the Rotary Club of West Sacramento.  
 
An interesting thing happened to Donna and Don when the went to a 5180 District Conference near Tahoe.  They were joined at dinner by a woman Rotarian with two Canine Companions for Independence puppies she was raising.  Donna was so smitten that after dinner, she applied online to be a CCI Puppy Raiser. 
 
Her application was accepted and shortly thereafter they received their first CCI puppy - Daphne.  They have raised six CCI puppies and are now raising Emerald.
 
Again, as Don was about to be the club president and attend PETS another restructuring event occurred resulting in the Fipps coming to San Diego to work for the University of California San Diego as the Administrative Director of Clinical Laboratories.  Upon arriving in San Diego, the Fipps joined the Del Mar Rotary club.
 
In 2018, Don retired.  He wasn’t going to job hop or relocate in retirement.  They say the third time is a charm.  It was meant to be that Don finally got to PETS and became president of the Del Mar club.
 
Don and Donna have attended RI conventions in Montreal, New Orleans and Toronto.  They are Rotary Bequest Society members because Rotary have given them so much.
 
Don now spends his down-time in retirement swimming two-miles, three-days a week, and riding his bicycle the remaining days of the week.
 
They have two children, Aaron and April. The grandchildren through Aaron are Bernie and Ben; the grandchildren through April are Charlie and Caroline.
 
We can’t thank Don enough for all he has done to help the clubs and District this year.  He has been selfless in contributing to the changes in the leadership plan, bylaws update and, of course, bringing Zoom technology to our members that eased the way for three membership seminars, monthly speakers of international repute, the Foundation Seminar and District Training Assembly.