Former Owensboro Public Schools Superintendent and lifelong educator Billy Chandler died Saturday at the age of 85.
Chandler served as OPS superintendent from 1991-1997 during his 38-year tenure with the school district. He also co-authored the book titled, “History of Owensboro Public School System (1871-2007),” which documented the “proud tradition of the school district.”
The Webster County native spent his retirement years cattle farming in Philpot with his wife Sandy and crop farming with friends Claude and Shack.
Before becoming superintendent, Chandler began his career in education as a biology and physical education teacher at Foust Junior High School, serving as both assistant principal and principal during his time there.
“Dr. Chandler was involved across the educational spectrum, from establishing Hager Preschool for 3- and 4-year-old at-risk children, to working with the Citizens Committee for Education to push funding through the state legislature to create the Owensboro Community College (now OCTC) in 1999 for adults, to conducting school law courses for superintendents, and serving on the Western Kentucky University Superintendent Assessment Team,” Vicki said.
In his passing, Chandler received praise from many educators and leaders across the community and state, including Daviess County Public Schools Superintendent Matt Robbins, Owensboro Community and Technical College president Scott Williams, City Commissioner Pam Smith-Wright and Owensboro-Daviess County Hospice Board Chair Tom Maddox, among many others.
“He touched tens of thousands of lives through his leadership role with the Owensboro Public Schools, but he was also influential in the broader community. He was the big picture and was very instrumental in helping establish [OCC] so local citizens would have options after high school,” said Dave Adkisson, former Owensboro mayor. “He was an educational and community leader, but more importantly, he was a genuinely wonderful human being whose friendship benefitted so many of us.”
Former OCTC president Jackie Addington described Chandler as “our rock and longtime loyal friend” at OCTC.
“He cared deeply for the students and rarely missed an opportunity to celebrate their achievements,” she said.
John Beisel, an instructor at OCTC, said the feeling of approval that came from Chandler was “profound,” and described him as an honest, genuine person who always made you feel welcome.
“I loved his persona — one that could command a room or sit back and spin a yarn,” he said. “His mentoring of me cannot be summarized in one paragraph. It was firm, but with ease. The corrections were always supported by reasons, and the praise was sincere, never superfluous.”
Robbins said he was heavily influenced by Chandler’s leadership throughout his career, describing the former superintendent as “an icon in my life” and someone who “loved me like a son.”
“Just to be clear, I would not be where I am without the love and mentorship of Bill Chandler. I know this is a fact and am humble enough to accept the truth,” Robbins said. “I loved Bill Chandler and always will.”