Dr. Wilbur W. “Billy” Oaks ’51, longtime benefactor and dedicated volunteer for whom the men’s soccer field and leadership academy for student-athletes are named, died June 13 at age 86. The men’s soccer field and leadership academy for student-athletes are named in his honor.
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 degree of Doctor of Public Service.
Oaks is survived by his wife of 61 years, Mary Ann; their three daughters, Susan Oaks Little ’78 (Stewart), Cynthia Oaks Linville ’80 (Judson ’79), and Sally Lou Oaks Loveman ’84 (Mitchell); nine grandchildren, Kristen Tapson Widenhoefer, Lauren Tapson, Kelly Tapson ’13, Madison Linville, Cameron Linville ’13, Lucy Linville ’18, Marin Loveman, Carly Loveman ’17, and Billy Loveman; and and two great-grandchildren, August and Margot Widenhoefer.
In recognition of Oaks’ generous commitment to the Lafayette Leadership Campaign (1995-2001), the men’s varsity soccer facility was dedicated as Mike Bourger ’44 Field at Oaks Stadium in 2005 following an extensive renovation. A member of the soccer team from 1947 to 1950, and its captain as a senior, Oaks was inducted into the Maroon Club Hall of Fame in 2009. The naming of the facility also recognizes Jack Bourger ’71 and Selena Vanderwerf, who provided support in honor of Jack’s late father, Mike, also a former Leopard soccer captain.
On the 60th anniversary of Oaks’ graduation from Lafayette, Jud 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.
Oaks was a highly esteemed doctor of internal medicine and former Thomas J. Vischer Chair of Medicine at Hahnemann University (now Drexel University College of Medicine) in Philadelphia. He served as a professor of medicine for more than 50 years.
Oaks competed in basketball and soccer as a youth in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. After attending Lower Merion High School, he enrolled at Lafayette, where he served as captain of the soccer team and graduated in 1951 with a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry. He later attributed his success as a physician to lessons in perseverance, accountability, and team-based leadership that he learned on the athletic field.
Oaks earned a doctor of medicine degree from Hahnemann Medical College in 1955. He went on to complete his residency and internship at Hahnemann and then joined the faculty, where he later became the chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine and served on the Board of Trustees for both Hahnemann and the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
At Hahnemann, Oaks became an instructor in medicine in 1961 and was promoted to assistant professor, then associate professor and to professor, in 1969. He was instrumental in establishing the physicians assistant program and served as director of the division of internal medicine for 10 years. The project director of Saint John’s Hospice homeless clinic from 1982 to 2000, Oaks founded the soccer team program, called Body and Soul, in 2009, for which he received the 1000 Points of Light award from President George H.W. Bush and a resolution from the City of Philadelphia.
Oaks received more than 25 awards for his service to the medical profession including the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindbach Foundation Award, A.J. Battafarano Award for Humanism in Medicine, Drexel University Lifetime Achievement Award, and Golden Apple Award for teaching excellence. He directed 13 medical symposiums and published more than 90 articles in various medical journals.