Alumni News

In Memoriam: Dr. Peter Sakas

[Dr. Peter Sakas]

‘Pete was a giant!’

Faculty and alumni of the College of Veterinary Medicine were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Peter Sakas, a 1983 veterinary graduate and owner of Niles Animal Hospital, on March 31 of a COVID-19-related illness. We join with so many in the veterinary and animal-loving community to remember his impact.

Please see his practice website and his Facebook page for details about his life and remembrances from family, friends, and clients. What follows are tributes from members of our college community.

Over the span of two decades, Dr. Sakas regularly traveled to Urbana from his practice in Niles, Ill., to share his expertise in exotic animal and avian medicine with Illinois veterinary students. He also lectured at veterinary colleges in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio.

“Dr. Sakas was an adjunct professor here when I was a student,” recalled Dr. Julia Whittington, a 1997 graduate of the college who joined the faculty nearly 20 years ago to lead the Wildlife Medical Clinic and now serves as director of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

“I still remember his lectures! Many of us also externed at Niles Animal Hospital, and Pete made it a point to hire Illinois veterinary graduates. Lots of us were impacted in our careers by Pete.”

There are three Illinois graduates who currently work at Niles Animal Hospital; Dr. Zach Kline, Class of 2016; Dr. Linda Yang, Class of 2014; and Dr. Don Staunton, Class of 1994.

Dr. Matt Allender, a 2004 graduate, current faculty member, and director of the Wildlife Epidemiology Laboratory, said of Dr. Sakas: “He was one of the best avian and exotic veterinarians in the country… He was a proud supporter of the U of I and a mentor to many of us in some way.”

Dr. Mike Biehl, who retired from the college faculty last December, was a 1983 classmate of Dr. Sakas. Dr. Biehl noted that many class members have been sharing the sad news and mourning the loss of their friend.

“Pete was a giant!” said Dr. Biehl.

“Pete rarely missed a Fall Conference,” noted Dr. Larry Firkins, executive associate dean of the college and head of the Office of Public Engagement. “He was one of the first to arrive each morning. I always enjoyed our conversations during those times.”

(The image at the top of the page was taken during the 2018 Fall Conference alumni reception.)

Dean Peter Constable also remembers thoroughly enjoying talking with Dr. Sakas at college events. “He was a strong supporter of our college and veterinary medicine, and will be missed,” said the dean.

Our sympathy goes out to his family and his many admirers.

His family has indicated that donations could go the college’s Companion Animal Memorial Fund.