Commemorating Frank Apantaku ’71

Announcements4 MIN READ

Colby names boardroom in honor of the noted trauma surgeon and trustee emeritus

Trustee Emeritus Frank Apantaku '71
By Laura Meader
January 30, 2023

Colby has named the boardroom in the Eustis Administration Building the Dr. Frank O. Apantaku ’71 Boardroom in honor of a loyal alumnus, respected trustee emeritus, and trailblazer for underrepresented students in higher education.

Apantaku, who died in 2022, was one of Chicago’s first trauma surgeons who saved or impacted the lives of thousands during his 40-year career. At Colby, his name will last in perpetuity as an example of a meaningful life marked by integrity and service to others.

“Frank Apantaku was an exemplary Colby student and alumnus whose contributions to the College deserve to be recognized in perpetuity,” said President David. A. Greene. “By naming the boardroom in his honor we are ensuring that his legacy will forever be remembered and celebrated.”

This naming is part of the College’s efforts to bring equitable representation to the entirety of Colby’s community and assure inspirational individuals are not lost to history.

Remembered as a sterling scholar, athlete, and citizen as a student and throughout his life, Apantaku carried a lifelong appreciation for the College. He mentored Colby students, served on the Board of Visitors, and was a member of the Board of Trustees, serving from 1987 to 1993 and again from 1994 to 1997, when he was named a trustee emeritus.

He also established the Elyse Apantaku ’09 Endowment Fund to ensure deserving students could benefit from Colby’s singular educational opportunities. In 1991 he received a Colby Brick Award for his service to the College.

Elyse Apantaku ’09, the oldest of three daughters, said her dad was always looking to discuss new ideas and learn about the people around him. “And to us, this seems to be an extension of the liberal arts education he engaged in at Colby,” she said. “He used the skills that he developed from Colby to great effect as a father, surgeon, and entrepreneur. We are thankful that the boardroom will bear his name where his memory can inspire Colby leaders to consider how to mold the next generation into curious, compassionate, and creative individuals like him as he did for us through his parenting.” 

Frank Apantaku was a dedicated surgeon at multiple Chicago hospitals. A member of the surgical faculty at Chicago Medical School, he also had a private practice and served as surgeon in chief and president of the medical staff at Provident Hospital of Cook County. 

His decision to practice emergency medicine stemmed from his Colby experience.

A full scholarship allowed Apantaku to come to Colby from Lagos, Nigeria. He double majored in biology and chemistry and intended to establish a career in biological research. His focus shifted to emergency medicine after witnessing a friend being rushed to the hospital. 

His Colby honors include being named a Charles A. Dana Scholar, election to Phi Beta Kappa, and the Randall J. Condon Medal for constructive citizenship, the highest award given to a graduating senior. His classmates selected him as their student speaker at commencement.

Members of the Class of 1971 selected Frank Apantaku ’71 to deliver the student address during their commencement. Colby has named the boardroom in the Eustis Building in honor of Apantaku, a standout scholar, athlete, and citizen at Colby and throughout his life.

Apantaku was captain of his class at King’s College secondary school in Lagos, where he excelled academically and at tennis, playing for the Nigerian national team. His tennis prowess continued at Colby, where he earned the number-one spot on the tennis team and won numerous championships. He also won several semi-pro tournaments in New England. The NCAA named him one of its scholar athletes in 1971. He joined the Nigerian Davis Cup team after graduation, playing during the 1971-72 season.

He earned an M.D. from Northwestern University in 1975. The following year, he studied native cultural implications on the development of tropical medicine in India and England on an IBM Watson Fellowship, which he won as a Colby senior. Returning to Chicago, he completed residencies at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Chicago Medical School, where, in 1984, he earned an M.Sc. in biochemistry.

Friends and family remember Apantaku as someone who led with kindness, respect, and humor. He believed that “to whom much is given, much will be required.” He leaves a legacy laced with generosity and gentle strength that will forevermore be part of Colby’s story.

Reflected Elyse Apantaku, ”I sensed that he felt enormous respect and gratitude for Colby taking a chance on him all those years ago and for the engaging learning environment it provided him.”