When legendary comedian Jack Oakie passed away in 1978, his wife, actress Victoria Horne Oakie, made certain that his memory would live on through America’s younger generation of aspiring comic actors, filmmakers and artists. Until her own death in 2003, her singular goal was to help future generations of funnymen (and women) realize their comedic dreams.
“His credo was ‘Give the money to the kids,’ and that’s what we do, because that’s what Jack wanted,” says David Nonne, trustee of the Jack Oakie and Victoria Horne Oakie Charitable Foundation, which partners with colleges and universities around the country to provide scholarships, lectures and screenings for comedy students in theater, film and TV.
Syracuse University Los Angeles (SULA) is one such school to benefit from the Oakie Foundation’s financial support, with the formation of the Victoria Horne Oakie Double Take Award in memory of SULA publicist Patty Freedman, and the It’s All Fun Award in memory of Pamela Sonne, David’s wife.
The scholarships are merit-based and with one specific catch: in order to receive the award money, the selected SULA student has to watch a Jack Oakie or Victoria Horne Oakie film and write an essay about it.
“We started Syracuse University’s semester in L.A. program in 2009, and the money [from the Oakie Foundation] was a godsend,” says Syracuse U.’s Joan L. Adler, assistant vice president, regional programs Los Angeles, advancement and external affairs. “Since 2011 I’ve been working with the foundation, and our goal is to always make sure that Jack Oakie and Victoria Horne Oakie’s names are kept alive.”