Remembrance: Dr. Wilbur Oaks ’51

wilbur-oaksFive minutes before a Lafayette men’s soccer game, Dr. Wilbur “Billy” Oaks ’51 would park his red Saab convertible in his usual spot and sprint to the stadium that bears his name.

He’d stand in the upper bleachers until the match ended, then shake the hand of every Leopard player before driving back to Philadelphia to do rounds at Hahnemann University Hospital, where he was chairman of the department of internal medicine.

A member of the team from 1947 to 1950 and captain his senior year, Oaks was a familiar and beloved presence at Lafayette soccer for more than five decades. “He made every player, whether they were on the team or an alum, feel like they were special,” says Coach Dennis Bohn.

In June, Oaks died at the age of 86, but his legacy on College Hill will live forever.

The doctor of internal medicine and former Thomas J. Vischer Chair of Medicine at Hahnemann University (now Drexel University College of Medicine) served on Lafayette’s Board of Trustees from 1996 to 2001 and was president of the Alumni Association from 1994 to 1996 and the Maroon Club in 1992. He received the Lafayette Medal for Distinguished Service in 2001 and the Joseph E. Bell ’28 Alumni Distinguished Service Award the following year. In 2011, he was awarded the honorary doctor of public service degree.

Oaks, of Gladwyne, Pa., is survived by his wife of 61 years, Mary Ann, and daughters Susan Oaks Linville ’78, Cindy Oaks Linville ’80, Sally Lou Oaks Loveman ’84, and grandchildren Kelly Tapson ’13, Cameron Linville ’13, Carly Loveman ’17, and Lucy Linville ’18.

Oaks inspired soccer players John Griffith ’09 and his wife, Kimberly Sorace Griffith ’11 to attend Drexel College of Medicine, where Oaks helped establish the program and taught for more than 50 years.

Griffith is a physician and Sorace Griffith is a physician’s assistant. “I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without his guidance,” says Griffith. In honor of the 60th anniversary of Oaks’ graduation, Jud ’79 and Cindy Linville honored him by creating the Dr. Wilbur W. Oaks ’51 Leadership Development Fund, which supports the Oaks Leadership Academy and other initiatives that help student-athletes become effective leaders in academics, athletics, and life.

“The way he lived his life made people want to be around him,” says daughter, Cindy Oaks Linville. “He was a remarkable, remarkable man.”

Cynthia Oaks Linville '80 (L-R), Lucy Linville ’18, Billy Oaks '51, Cameron Linville '13, and Carly Loveman '17.

Cynthia Oaks Linville ’80 (L-R), Lucy Linville ’18, Billy Oaks ’51, Cameron Linville ’13, and Carly Loveman ’17.