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William Otis Lacefield III

September 11, 1967 ~ March 23, 2020 (age 52)


Dr. William Otis Lacefield, III (“Billy”), 52 of Atlanta, GA passed away on Monday, March 23, 2020.  Billy was born in Louisville, KY and grew up in Louisville and Macon, GA.  He graduated from Southwest High School in Macon in 1985.  He graduated magna cum laude with his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Mercer University in 1989, then earned post-baccalaureate certification in early childhood education from Georgia College and State University in 1990.  He earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1993, a specialist in education degree in early childhood education from Mercer in 1995, and a doctorate in curriculum studies from Georgia Southern University in 1999.  After teaching elementary school in Bibb County for seven years while serving as an adjunct instructor at Mercer, Billy joined the Mercer faculty full-time in 1997 as Instructor of Mathematics Education and Middle Grades Education.  He was granted tenure in 2003 and promoted to Full Professor in 2009.  One Mercer colleague described Billy as a “gentle genius,” stating that “Mercer students loved him for his ability to skillfully teach challenging courses with such gentle kindness.” 


Billy sought to build positive attitudes toward mathematics, and in addition to his work at Mercer he privately tutored hundreds of learners of all ages and at all levels – from young children to senior citizens, from counting to calculus.  He received numerous awards and accolades for his incomparable work inside and outside the classroom.  Perhaps most notably, Billy was a recent recipient of the highly prestigious Hendricks Award, which recognizes a full-time teacher who best exemplifies the qualities that distinguished Joe and Jean Hendricks as teachers and mentors to generations of Mercer students. These include challenging and inspiring teaching in and out of the classroom, active engagement of students in the process of learning, discovery and leadership, as well as caring mentoring to motivate students and junior faculty to achieve their highest aspirations.    


Billy was a self-described anglophile and enjoyed many visits to Britain with his husband Michael, but not only for leisure. Billy took his passion for math, teaching and life-long learning with him and explored comparative mathematics education in England and the United States, and unsurprisingly made scores of friends in the process. His loved ones – local and abroad – will miss his contagious smile and laugh, his kindness and gentleness, his generosity and passion.  As one friend put it, “Billy never subtracted or divided people but only added and multiplied love and encouragement.  The sum of Billy is what we all strive to be.” 


Billy was preceded in death by his father William O. Lacefield, Jr. and several grandparents including his beloved grandmother Mary Brian.  He is survived by his loving husband Michael Petway of Atlanta, step-children Davis Petway (Justin Gray) of Wilton Manors, FL and Ben Petway of Atlanta, mother Maria Clance, sister Stacy Amerson (Barry) and nieces Vada Amerson and Cassidy Amerson, all of Macon.


Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, a celebration of life will be held at a later date for all friends and family.  A private graveside service will be held on Saturday, March 28, 2020.  In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes contributions to the Dr. William O. Lacefield Memorial Scholarship.  Please mail donations to Mercer University, Office of University Advancement, 1501 Mercer University Drive, Macon, GA 31207, or make a gift online at  Condolences may be expressed at  Arrangements by McDonald and Son Funeral Home, 150 Sawnee Drive, Cumming, GA 30040 (770) 886-9899.




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