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Roxie Alexander

Excerpt from: Beloit Magazine (January 1996)

     Roxie Alexander, emerita professor of English and education at Beloit College, died Dec. 28 at age 73. Alexander had undergone surgery earlier in the month, after which she suffered further complications.

     Alexander began teaching at Beloit College in 1958, several years after her husband, Lee, had been hired as a professor of Enlgish. During her first two decades in Beloit, she also taught at Rockford College as well as secondary schools in the area.

     After the death of her husband in 1976, she concentrated her efforts at Beloit. Her speciality was contemporary English and American literature, and up to the recently ended semester she taught academic writing to first-year students.

     Alexander was an avid reader of murder mysteries as well an incorrigible fan of motion pictures.

     "She and Lee used to whip into Chicago," her former colleague Emeritus Professor Robert Irrmann recalled. "They'd leave on a Friday night or early Saturday, and they would do a matinee, an early evening movie, and then a late show before checking in to their hotel. They'd really binge. Roxie reminded me of someone I knew who 'never saw a bad movie.'"

     Irrmann recalled how Alexander "never mastered the VCR to record anything, but if a movie was coming up on TV she was interested in seeing, she'd have someone come over and set it for her."

     Alexander was an animated and ebullient figure both in and out of the classroom.

     "Like all teachers," Irrmann said, "she had a core of students who adored her, and 20 years later the first thing they'd do on returning to Beloit was to drop in and see her. As a teacher, she always hit her stride."

     Alexander never seemed to be at a loss for words and was a model of total candor.

     "Roxie had a Rabelaisian sense of humor," Irrmann said. "She taught Chaucer -- who, you know, was very raunchy -- and you can imagine how deliciously she could bring that in. She would take late Middle English and explain what the words meant to the sweet little things in her class. They got shocked."

     The humor, however, was neither frivolous nor gratuitous.

     "What I'll miss most about Roxie," said English Professor Tom McBride, "is her absolutely solid principles. She hated phony language. And despite her wit and irreverence, she had a strong sense of decorum and belief about what students expected of us, of our mission as educators. She was unwavering about these principles."

     Last November, Alexander was honored at a symposium marking the centennial of women at Beloit College. "She was overwhelmed," said Irrmann of the dinner she thought was planned for 25 that drew 160. "It was the high point of her career."

     Survivors include three daughters, Martha, of Rochester, N.Y., currently teaching in the People's Rebublic of China; Natalie, of Kirksville, Mo., and Jessica of Janesville, Wis.


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