Colby mourns the passing of a dedicated alumnus and former trustee, Dr. Frank O. Apantaku ’71. One of Chicago’s first trauma surgeons, he died Feb. 22, 2022, in Wilmette, Ill., at 75.
During his four decades as a surgeon, he estimated that he saved or impacted thousands of lives. A dedicated surgeon at multiple Chicago hospitals, he was also a member of the surgical faculty at Chicago Medical School, had a private practice, and served as surgeon in chief and president of the medical staff at Provident Hospital of Cook County.
“Frank Apantaku lived a remarkable, meaningful life characterized by service to others, and his legacy will continue to be felt at Colby and far beyond,” said President David. A. Greene. “We are grateful for his many contributions here, from his exemplary citizenship as a student to his many years as a member of the Board of Trustees, and we extend our sincere condolences to his family.”
Apantaku’s years at Colby informed his decision to practice emergency medicine, and throughout his life, he carried an appreciation for the College. Apantaku gave back as a mentor to Colby students and as a member on 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 others could benefit from Colby’s distinctive education. He received a Colby Brick Award in 1991 for his service to the College.
Born Olusegun (“God brings victory”) Olukayode (“God brings joy”) Olatunde (“Glory comes again”) Apantaku in 1946 in Lagos, Nigeria, he attended King’s College secondary school in Lagos, where he was captain of his class. He excelled academically and at tennis, playing for the Nigerian national team. It was at King’s College when he selected the anglicized name Frank because he valued sincerity.
Colby was one of 50 colleges to which Apantaku applied, each by hand. He came to Colby on a full scholarship and double majored in biology and chemistry. As an undergraduate, his intention was to establish a career in biological research. However, after witnessing a friend being rushed to the hospital, he shifted his focus to emergency medicine. He was a Charles A. Dana Scholar, elected member of Phi Beta Kappa, and the recipient of the Randall J. Condon Medal, the highest honor given to a graduating senior, for constructive citizenship. His classmates chose him to be the student speaker at their 1971 commencement.
Apantaku continued his tennis prowess at Colby. He earned the number-one spot on the tennis team and won numerous championships at Colby and several semi-pro tournaments in New England. In 1971 the NCAA named him one of its scholar athletes. Following his graduation, he joined the Nigerian Davis Cup team, playing during the 1971-72 season.
After Colby, he earned an M.D. from Northwestern University in 1975. He spent the following year in India and England on an IBM Watson Fellowship, won as a Colby senior, studying native cultural implications on the development of tropical medicine. He returned to Chicago for his residency, first at Northwestern Memorial Hospital then at Chicago Medical School, where, in 1984, he earned an M.Sc. in biochemistry.
During his career, he wrote numerous articles published in leading medical journals and gave frequent presentations at professional conferences. He also wrote a column titled “Health Talk” for the Chicago Defender newspaper, now an online source of news and information covering issues important to the urban African-American community.
According to his obituary, Apantaku led with the core values of kindness, respect, and humor, believing “to whom much is given, much will be required.” His generous spirit, infectious smile, and warm personality left an indelible mark on those fortunate to have known him.
Before entering hospice, he hand-delivered chocolates to the nurses and staff at NorthShore Hospital to thank them for their care during his final years battling multiple myeloma. Frank Apantaku leaves his three daughters—Elyse ’09 and her husband, Ben Hauptman ’09, Elora, and Erisa—and four grandchildren.
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