Ardmore, have you met Wendy Whipkey?
Whipkey, a native Texan and graduate of the Florida Coastal School of Law, moved to Ardmore this year. She recently passed the Oklahoma bar exam and serves as legal counsel for the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.
"I have never been a fan of starting over, but I have done it all my life," she says. "I really like Ardmore. My church (St. Philip's Episcopal) has been awesome and a key for me making friends. I've been welcomed by all age groups on every level. I chose Ardmore because of the size, which is similar to Nacogdoches. So I knew what I was walking into."
Nacogdoches is home to Stephen F. Austin University, where Whipkey received her undergraduate degree. She grew up in a small town in a family of five, and at an early age wanted to be a biologist. She focused on biology which at SFA, and also received a minor in political science.
Whipkey said she started looking to a future in law after her first semester in college, and took the political science minor for leadership positions. She wanted to focus on environmental law, and was recruited to Florida Coastal in Jacksonville, Fla.
Much like her career in biology, her career path veered off course. It happened during a chance encounter with a graduate of Florida Coastal during a storm.
"I went running, and was caught in a lightning storm," Whipkey recalls. "I wound up in a ditch with another runner, that, by coincidence, was in family law. He wound up becoming a mentor for me, and I worked for him."
Whipkey worked an internship in Texas, which had a significant impact on her, and she decided to focus on legal aid. She bolstered her resume, serving as an assistant director for the Public Interest Research Bureau, which she also helped develop on campus. The bureau provides legal research for firms that do not have resources to hire legal aids.
Whipkey's journey led her to Ardmore in February, when she was flown to Oklahoma for an interview. The next day, she accepted the job.
"I have a personal connection with family law," she explains. "I grew up very poor. My dad abandoned my family when I was five or six, and my mom worked at Burger King with four kids at home. So connecting was very easy."
It was also something about which she is very passionate. After arriving in Oklahoma, Whipkey spent the summer months studying for the bar exam, which she took in late July.
"I was fine in the summer, but totally had nightmares leading up to it," she admits.
Those nightmares turned to anxiety as she anxiously awaited the results of the exam, which were posted while she was observing in court in Tishomingo on Sept. 6. When she was able to get to her phone, she found out she passed, and performed an impromptu celebration in the parking lot.
Picturing herself as an idealist, Whipkey's now gains satisfaction in helping others.
"My family calls me an overachiever," she says. "I've wondered what my motivations are. I think being able to tell someone the things they really needed to know. We do some funny stuff, but it's really rewarding."