Why We Give: Janice and Dr. William ’58 Lacefield

Janice and Dr. William ’58 Lacefield

“My favorite professors helped prepare me for a successful life.”

Residence: Greenwood, Ind.
Hometown: Livermore, Ky.
Family: 2 children (Shannon and Stephanie), 6 grandchildren, 1 great-granddaughter
Education: Ph.D., Vanderbilt University, Organic Chemistry
B.S., Kentucky Wesleyan College, Chemistry
Career: Mead Johnson Research Lab, Evansville
Following Ph.D., 27 years in medicinal chemical discovery research, Lilly Research Labs, Indianapolis

“Wesleyan taught me to love chemistry and the Lord, and we give to the Chemistry and General Scholarship Funds in hopes that we will help a bright young person to love them also.”


“I chose Wesleyan because it had an excellent reputation and was within hitchhiking distance from my home. My father passed away when I was 13, so my mother and I had to live on two small pensions; his and that of my brother Merlyn who gave his life for our country in World War II.  I was able to supplement what Mom could give me with my earnings from part-time jobs. In addition, Wesleyan gave me a scholarship, so I could make it happen.   

My favorite professors were Dr. Thomas Rogers (religion) and Professors Charles Higgs (chemistry) and Bruce Von Zellen (biology). They helped prepare me for my life and career. I was able to shift my focus from pre-medicine to organic and medicinal chemistry, at which I have been successful, and I deepened my understanding of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and have served Him as deacon for several years in my home church. 

 I was a member of the Sigma Delta fraternity.  This was the fraternity to which many men destined to lead their churches belonged.  I have warm memories of the Siggies.  

Janice and I were married in 1956, at the end of my junior year at Wesleyan. After Wesleyan, I worked in discovery research at Mead Johnson Pharmaceutical Co. (later absorbed by Bristol Myers). Following that came my Ph.D. work at Vanderbilt from 1961 to 1965. I joined Eli Lilly Research Laboratory and worked there from 1965 to my retirement in 1993.   

I did work at Lilly while Dr. Jonas Salk and Lilly were collaborating on the polio vaccine, but that was a viral research project and, as a chemist, I worked in other areas.  I did get to meet Dr. Salk, who was brilliant.  My work involved seeking to discover new chemicals which would have a use as drugs.  Although I did not discover anything that made it as a medicine for people, I did discover several which made it into clinical trials.  I was awarded a couple of dozen patents and published a couple of dozen scientific papers on my research. 

 This year, my wife and soulmate and I celebrated our 61st wedding anniversary.”