William “Billy” A. Oates Jr. ’65, current trustee and member of the Colby Museum of Art Board of Governors, died Feb. 14, 2017, at age 74. Oates, from Dedham, Mass., was an investment advisor and founding partner of Northeast Investment Management in Boston, where he managed Northeast Investors Growth Fund for more than 30 years.
He served on Colby’s Board of Trustees from 2005 to 2013 and was re-elected in 2014 for his current four-year term. He was awarded a Colby Brick in 2015. He served on multiple committees, including the Budget and Finance, Investment, and Development. In addition, he was former chairman of the board of Groton School, his alma mater, and was a trustee for the school. He was also a former trustee and treasurer of Roxbury Latin School, which awarded him an honorary degree in 1985—the fourth such award in the school’s history.
“Billy was energetic, vibrant—bursting with optimism,” said President David A. Greene. “There was nothing more important to him than his family, who brought him endless joy. We are fortunate that he also loved Colby and everything it represented in his life. We will miss Billy deeply. He brought so much light and possibility to our lives.”
Oates majored in English at Colby and went on to a career in investment management. After a year in basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., he worked for J.P. Morgan in New York. He earned an M.B.A. from Harvard in 1972 and began working in Boston. He was hailed as one of the “18 Wizards of Wall Street” in a book published in 2000 by Kirk Kazanjian. In a Money magazine article in 1987, he said of his investing success, “I try to garner value in the mainstream,” which he did buying “well-established companies that deliver products or services the public appreciates.”
As a Colby student, Oates belonged to Delta Kappa Epsilon and played varsity hockey. He served in the U.S. Army National Guard 1966-70. Always smartly dressed, Oates was a devotee of Mark Twain, a gardener, a skier, a golfer, and a mountaineer. He climbed many of Colorado’s 14,000ers with his daughters, Half Dome, Grand Teton, Ayers Rock with daughter Emily, and, realizing a longtime dream, the Matterhorn with daughter Kate.
Oates and his wife of 48 years, Elizabeth “Muffy” Macy Oates, raised three daughters, Elizabeth, Kate, and Emily. They have six grandchildren.
As a scholarship recipient at Colby, he felt it was his duty to give back to the College. In 2002 he established the Chaplin Fellows, an annual giving gift club. In establishing the club, he said, “We have a chance to influence the future—to nurture our roots—to plant trees in whose shade others will sit.”