Loving Like Adam

Courtney White founds the Love Like Adam Foundation in memory of her late cousin, educates students and families about the dangers of hazing


Adam’s Law was passed in the state of Virginia in January of 2022. This law was created by the Oakes family in response to the death of their son, grandson, and cousin, Adam Oakes. Adam’s Law sets a precedent for legal responsibility in the event of hazing and makes hazing a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Upon investigation of the equality of anti-hazing training required for college student groups, it was found that colleges are not legally required to give the same anti-hazing training to athletic teams as is given to other student organizations, like Greek organizations and student governments. The implementation of Adam’s Law on Christopher Newport University’s campus and the findings of the investigation regarding athletics and hazing can be found in the Oct. 5 edition of The Captain’s Log. 

Upon the circulation of the referenced article, Courtney White, a cousin of Adam Oakes and the President of the Love Like Adam Foundation, reached out to share her side of the story and explain her goals for the law and the foundation, specifically regarding anti-hazing education for athletes. 


Adam Oakes was beloved by his family and friends, but his cousin, Courtney White, had a special relationship with him. With 20 years separating the two, White spent many years taking care of and entertaining a young Oakes. When White had her own children, Oakes returned the favor. 

“You have a lot of regret when you lose someone…I wish so many more times that I had just told him how much I care about him. I also wish every single day, to be honest,  that I had known he was rushing, that he was pledging. I had no idea…At least I could have had a little bit of time to educate him on what it could be, and what can happen, and how to best avoid that, and I’ll forever regret that,” said White regarding the death of Oakes and his fatal encounter with hazing. 

At her daughter’s 7th birthday lunch, on February 27th, 2021, White received the news that her cousin had died. According to White, her mother was asked via Facebook Messenger about Oakes. It only took White a moment to process what was going on; she immediately called Eric Oakes, Adam’s father: “I said, ‘Okay, we’ll be there.’ We all went to my uncle’s and we were sitting around…it was very overwhelming the amount of love that was in the room.”

Despite the love, White described her reaction to the situation in one word: pissed. 

“They were basically assuming that there was no foul play for a 19-year-old kid dying. And he was healthy, so how else would this have happened?” White remarked. 

On the morning of February 27th, 2021, Adam Oakes’s body was found. The night before, brothers of the Delta Chi fraternity chapter at Virginia Commonwealth University gave Oakes a handle of Jack Daniels whiskey and told him to drink it. For context, a handle of liquor is about 40 shots. 

“When we found out it was Big Brother Night, I was like, ‘I know exactly what this is,’” White said.

Having been in a sorority herself, White recognized the signs of hazing and the premise of  Big Brother night: “You get your big brother. You get your big sister. They give you what’s called a family drink. The family drink is a bottle of some sort of alcohol that’s extremely strong, and you’re basically told to drink it. Even one of the hazers in Adam’s death, he said, ‘It’s one of the deadliest nights in all of fraternal history.’”

Seeking Justice

If the police had responded to one of the four noise complaints made that night, Adam Oakes may still be alive.

If the suspension of the Delta Chi fraternity had not been reduced from four years to one year, Adam Oakes may still be alive.

If any one of the brothers would have called 911 that night, Adam Oakes may still be alive.

While all these thoughts went through White’s mind, there is little that can be changed with a ‘What-If’ statement. Rather, White took her anger and sadness and turned to activism. 

“Something my Paw Paw said before he died was, ‘Just get justice for Adam,’” White said, sharing the conversation that initiated the creation of the Love Like Adam Foundation. 

The Love Like Adam Foundation, created by White, along with Adam’s parents, Eric and Linda Oakes, educates high school and college students, parents, and other community members about the dangers of hazing. 

“I started to do research on hazing and that’s when I started to build a curriculum…We’ve got a student hazing workshop. We have a large group presentation. We got a parent presentation. We have coaches and advisors training, too. I tried to take what other people were already doing and make it different…In the student hazing workshop that I created, it uses improvement science from the Carnegie Center…and [the students] do the work. [The students] get to see the latest data on hazing, look at the trends, the patterns, the themes, and its [their] voice that’s heard,” White said. 

                          White speaking at the University of Lynchburg. 

One unique part of the anti-hazing college program is the speakers. The Delta Chi President, Pledge Master, and Oakes’s Big Brother speak out on how the night Oakes died affected their lives. White felt that having the brothers speak to students was extremely impactful: “It’s very different, but I will say that they have made a difference in every audience that we’ve been in front of. They answer every question as best as they can, and they engage with the audience…When they speak, the kids are listening.” 

Regarding the importance of anti-hazing training for college campuses, White said: “You don’t want a death on your campus, and having us come and raise awareness is just one extra step to say you care about…the kids on your campus.”

With the passing of Adam’s Law, institutions must provide anti-hazing training to “current members, new members, and potential new members of each student organization with new members” (lis.virgnia.gov). It is explicitly stated in the law that a student organization with new members “does not include any varsity intercollegiate or club athletic team” (lis.virgnia.gov). However, it is not because hazing in athletics was overlooked by the Oakes family. 


“They said hazing is different in athletics than it is in fraternities and sororities, but the thing is, it’s not that different. It’s still hazing,” White said regarding the push back received by universities in Virginia over including athletic teams in anti-hazing training. 

“We needed [the law] to pass, and we needed anything on the books to make sure that everyone was receiving education; that’s the bottom line…This is our mentality: we’ll take [athletics] out and we’ll come back next year and modify the law. Our intention is to go back and go back stronger,” White said about her further plans for Adam’s Law. 

For more information regarding Adam Oakes’ legacy and White’s anti-hazing curriculum visit lovelikeadam.com.