The Professional's Guide to Strategic Philanthropy
Tribute to Dr. Ted Alexander
Dr. Ted Alexander
Our good friend, Dr. Ted Alexander, passed into the next life on July 2, 2014 after a brief final illness in a drawn-out series of challenges to his health. Ted was known to us in his role as President of the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation in Picayune, Mississippi. Dr. Harrell attended his funeral service on July 10th amidst a packed church of family, friends, colleagues, former students and supporters. The service was officiated by the Rev. Rob Gill at the Parkway Heights United Methodist Church of Hattiesburg. He is survived by his beloved wife of 53 years, Barbara; their son Brent, his wife, Jane, and their two daughters, Elizabeth and Emily of Jackson; and their son Bryan, of Biloxi. Ted will be missed greatly among his many friends in the Southeastern Council of Foundations. His sense of humor was uniquely appreciated as was his stability and moral compass. Ted was a compassionate man with a tenderness for disadvantaged children of any age. Dr. Harrell was a good friend and colleague for many years and all of us here at Philoptima Consulting will long remember Ted. For those among us who were unable to pay their last respects to Ted and his family, the following description of his life is quoted in its entirety. Take the time to read on and you will learn about the man, his work, family and life story.
Dr. Ted J. Alexander (April 25, 1936- -July 2, 2014) We celebrate the life of Dr. Ted J. Alexander, one of Mississippi’s longtime, leading educators, business development leaders and philanthropists. Dr. Alexander was born in abject poverty on April 25, 1936, in the small community of Clarksburg to the late James and Lessye Alexander. Forged in the crucible of the tough streets of New Orleans and in the backwoods of Mississippi, Dr. Alexander left home at 16 and moved to Jackson, where he worked nights at a steel company to finish Central High. At Central, he was a stellar athlete and academic, noted daredevil and a regular on stage in the school’s annual musicals. He also loved boxing and was a Golden Gloves state champ in 1955. Working often three or four jobs at a time, and dependent upon academic scholarships, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on American Literature in 1958 at Millsaps College, then stayed another year to earn a second certification in the biological sciences. He received his master’s degree from Mississippi College in 1964 and his doctorate in Educational Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1973. At Southern Miss, he was recipient of one of the institution’s first “Phil Hardin Foundation Scholar Awards”.
Dr. Alexander’s professional education career began in Meadville, Mississippi, in 1959, where he was the biology and physical science teacher, coach, and newspaper and student council sponsor. His career took him to superintendent’s positions in Newton and Pascagoula, culminating in his appointment in 1976 as Superintendent of the McComb schools. Dr. Alexander’s tenure in McComb marked his ascension into the ranks of Mississippi’s pantheon of education reformers. During his 10 years in McComb, Dr. Alexander made improvements to the school system, which led to the McComb schools in 1983 being recognized as one of the first national model school systems by President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of Education Terrell Bell. He left McComb to become President of Pearl River Community College in 1986. During his 14-year tenure at PRCC, the college doubled its enrollment and its academic division grew 130%.
Along with a coalition of progressive community college presidents, Dr. Alexander helped build Mississippi’s community college system into a politically powerful and effective force for improving education. At the time of his death, Dr. Alexander was serving as the first President and CEO of the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation, based in Picayune. While he was the foundation’s CEO, hundreds of health related grants, totaling millions of dollars, were approved and funded by the foundation to enhance the health and wellbeing of children, youth and adults in the foundation’s service area.
Throughout his career, he received numerous awards for his work and advocacy for public education and for his service to community. Most notable, for raising $2.3 million to serve 6,000 children in “Safe Harbor” summer camps after Hurricane Katrina. He was named a South Mississippi “Hero” by WLOX-TV and Dupont DeLisle Industries. Dr. Alexander served on the Mississippi Economic Council’s Board of Governors and chaired the MEC State Education Committee. One treasured achievement was serving as the founding chair and past chair of the Mississippi Council on Economic Education. There he helped inspire a generation of young entrepreneurs. Dr. Alexander also chaired the Mississippi Humanities Council, and served as the state’s lay delegate to the White House Conference on Library and Information Services in both 1979 and again in 1991. He also served on the board of trustees of the Crosby Arboretum and of Crosby Memorial Hospital in Picayune. He was a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International , and a past president of the McComb and Poplarville Rotary clubs. At the time of his death, Dr. Alexander was an active member of the Mississippi Center for Nonprofits; Grantmakers in Education; Grantmakers in Health; Grantmakers in Aging; The Council on Foundations; and the Southeastern Council of Foundations, a 12-state organization of foundations, for which he served as a board member. He was also a founder and past chair of the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers. An advisory council member of the Southern Growth Policies Board, he served for five years as Chairman of the Wesley Manor Retirement Community and was elected member of the Mississippi Methodist Services Corporation. The Alexanders made their home in Hattiesburg, but maintained a vacation home called Bayfair near Fairhope, Alabama. They spent many weekends with family there, and Dr. Alexander- -forever an educator- -delighted in teaching his cherished six-year-old granddaughters about jellyfish, crabs and sharks and all the wonders of nature found in coastal life. He was an avid fisherman; White Perch, especially feared his name. Dr. Alexander is survived by his beloved wife of 53 years, Barbara; their son Brent, his wife, Jane, and their two daughters, Elizabeth and Emily of Jackson; and their son Bryan, of Biloxi.
God speed, Ted; you will be sorely missed. May you find well-deserved peace and everlasting contentment from a race well run. Amen.
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