Adding it all up, Florida church member rediscovers faith while building math team dynasty

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (BP) – For a guy in the 1980s, Will Frazer appeared to be living his best life now.

A degree from the University of Florida led to a job on Wall Street as a bond trader. That led to an obscene amount of money in a place Frazer came to describe as “a moral sewer.” Eventually he had enough of both and at 27 years old bought a Ferrari and semi-retired to his native Florida, spending the next ten years playing a lot of golf and doing pretty much whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.

But it got old.

“I was taking it easy, but then started to get the itch to do something productive,” he said. “So, I got into this teaching thing kind of by accident.”

Perhaps it started by accident, but a phone call to his old golf coach at Buchholz High School led Frazer to establish and lead a math team that has won 13 of the last 14 national championships. The success has caught others’ attention, as he has been written about in the Wall Street Journal and appeared on Fox & Friends.

Frazer had been a member of the school’s golf team when he graduated in 1976 and was hired mid-year by his former coach, now Buchholz’s principal. He didn’t make any promises that he’d remain for an extended period of time, but plans changed.

“I fell in love with it kind of right away,” he said. “I was seeking something of substance in my life—something productive and meaningful. I knew it wasn’t just chasing money.”

Frazer also rediscovered the faith taught to him by his mother as a child. He had attended church growing up, but found it boring.

“My mom taught Sunday school and so I was around church. If you had asked me, I would have said I was a Christian, but I didn’t really know what that meant,” he said.

In March 2003 Frazer had a moment of considering eternity. The U.S. was well into the war in Iraq and the idea of more troops heading into battle got him thinking.

“I just said to myself, ‘Wow, Jesus Christ is the only answer,’” he said. “Nobody was actively witnessing to me or anything.”

Wanting to know more, he talked to the math chair for Buchholz High, who was a member at North Central Baptist Church. Frazer began attending not long before Calvin J. Carr was called to be the church’s pastor.

“For a while now, it seems, we’ve been announcing to the church, ‘Hey ya’ll, Will and them won again,’” said Carr, who will mark 15 years at North Central in October.

Frazer had made a profession of faith, but never been baptized. He has since done so, as has his wife, Jennifer, and their children. Their son, Jake, is one of the stars for the math team.

Buchholz is the top-ranked high school in its local system and second in the Gainesville metro area, according to U.S. News & World Report. For one with so many math national championships, though, it places #66 in the state and #1,172 in the national rankings. Frazer’s background in numbers going back to his Wall Street days and methods of solving mathematical equations have provided the upper hand, as has his devotion to the students and their families.

In 2021 Frazer was concerned about another round of COVID-19 regulations in schools. In order for his team—he refuses to call them a “club”—to keep its edge, he asked Carr if North Central could serve as a satellite hub for the school.

“Will has a certain way he teaches and he wanted his students to have that same experience,” said Carr. “He received the blessings of the school’s principal and superintendent and approached me about it.”

An educational building perfectly fit the need, so Frazer put out the word to 145 students. Friends expected a couple dozen or so to say yes. Carr hoped it could be around 80. When class started, 140 showed up.

Buchholz had various classes meeting on campus as well as in person. Parents coordinated travel for students from the church to the school, located two miles away. Frazer estimates that 75-80 percent of his team are of Asian heritage. However, concerns over meeting in person were overcome by the standing he has in that community.

For many of those families, being inside a church under any circumstances was a new experience. North Central members created gift bags for students as one way of welcoming them.

“Five days a week, there were kids going in and out of the building,” said Carr. “Our people ministered to them, planting seeds of encouragement and letting them know that we were glad they were here. The team’s awards recognition night at the end of the year was held at the church and afterwards parents stayed behind to clean up.”

Frazer’s thoughts on his students’ success can be applied to churches. “We’re a team. We collaborate. We work together with a common goal. We make sacrifices for each other.

“That’s what a team does.”

By Scott Barkley, Baptist Press, August 1, 2022

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