Family remembers Adam Oakes three years after hazing death

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Three years after Virginia Commonwealth University freshman Adam Oakes died from alcohol poisoning in an alleged fraternity hazing incident, his cousin, Courtney White, says the family is doing everything they can to honor his life.

“I know it’s three years, but it feels like yesterday,” said White. “Like, when we got the news, it kind of turned our whole world upside down.”

White is now the president of the Love Like Adam Foundation, which equips families, students and law enforcement with hazing prevention education. In April of 2022, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed “Adam’s Law,” which requires hazing prevention training for college students, as well as ninth and tenth graders.

“The power that hazing has over people is the silence. And so if for a student to break that silence that is instrumental in creating change within an organization,” said Rachael Tully, a hazing prevention coordinator.

In addition to Adam’s Law, White said that she wishes there were harsher punishments for those who haze others. She said Delta Chi, the fraternity Oakes was pledging when he died, had a reputation for hazing — which she wishes he had been aware of.

White said that Oakes’ story can be used to encourage others to speak up about hazing.

“We can either sit down and grieve and and that would have been okay, too,” said White. “Or, we could get up and we could create this movement to really make change in Virginia.”

More information about Adam Oakes’ death, the subsequent investigation and the resulting legislation can be found here.

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