PROVO — Elder Dallin H. Oaks almost didn’t survive his birth in west Provo in 1932. Valiant efforts of his aunt, a nurse saved his life.
He would grow to endure challenges, including the death of his father, a young medical doctor, when Dallin was just 8.
He would grow to become a law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren of the U.S. Supreme Court before returning to Utah Valley to be president of Brigham Young University. Later he would be a Utah Supreme Court justice and ultimately a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Friday evening, Utah Valley honored one of its favorite sons as Elder Oaks was given the Pillar of the Valley Award by the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce at the Utah Valley Convention Center in downtown Provo.
Honored posthumously at the same event was the late Ray Noorda, who became known as “the father of network computing” after he rescued struggling Novell, taking it from a small-time operation with 17 employees to a billion-dollar company and one of Utah’s largest employers.
At a VIP reception prior to the awards banquet, Elder Oaks remarked in an interview, “I just feel very humble and grateful that I would be honored in the place where I was born, in the place where I grew up and graduated from high school, the place where I returned after years away to be president of the university and where I have half of our family living in Utah County.”
Three of the six Oaks children, with assorted grandchildren and great-granchildren, and his only sister, Evelyn, and her husband, retired ophthalmologist Lyman Moody, live in Utah Valley.
“This is where my parents are buried and this is where I’ll be buried,” he said.
Tributes to Elder Oaks were given by Bill Fillmore, student body president of BYU the first year that Dallin Oaks was president there; Elder Spencer Condie, former BYU professor and LDS general authority emeritus; Elder Oaks’ wife Kristen; and Elder Russell M. Nelson, a fellow member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles with Elder Oaks.
Jenny Oaks Baker, acclaimed violinist andf daughter of Elder Oaks and his first wife, June, performed two selections.
Responding to the award, Elder Oaks chose to end the evening with a humorous anecdote.
“When I was on the Utah Supreme Court,” he said, “I had taken a significant cut in salary from BYU president. My dear wife June said to me, ‘Do you realize every job you have taken since you got out of law school, you have taken a cut in pay to move from one job to another. Some husbands get an increase in pay.’ ”
He was subdued, he said.
When he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve, he received a living allowance. He spoke about it to his wife, who said, “Well, it’s happened again. But at least it won’t happen again.”
“Then, a few years later, President Hinckley took all the general authorities off corporate boards, and it happened again!” Elder Oaks said.
Concluding, he said, “I appreciate what has been said about me, which I take as a challenge.”