Farewell to an Evergreen Original, Richard Alexander

February 12, 2018
Richard Alexander

A staunch supporter of Evergreen’s founding vision and mission, Faculty Member Emeritus Richard W.  Alexander died in Seattle on August 8, 2017 at age 81. Alexander was a member of the original planning faculty and worked at Evergreen until his 1995 retirement. He taught English, literature, and humanities, as well as serving in Academic Affairs and as an academic dean.

Alexander was an originator of the Japan Program, which sent Evergreen students to work in apprenticeships after completing a yearlong program on Japanese culture, history, literature, and language. He was also Evergreen’s first Japan exchange professor with Kobe University of Commerce. In 1990, only a few months after the Berlin Wall came down, Alexander was granted a Fulbright Lectureship to teach English at Lajos Kossuth University in Debrecen, Hungary.

Alexander was a distinctive presence at Evergreen. In his short 1972 autobiography, he said “I am well-known all over Evergreen for my demonic laugh and my intimidating height and red beard. I am also known for my eagerness to speak the unpalatable truths in public, and my rush to demolish Evergreen rhetoric and Evergreen dreams. I am often asked why I am here. Since I was among the first hired, that is an odd question, but the answer is simple: I wanted to help shape an undergraduate curriculum that recognized what it was to be a student, and recognized the shape and force of ideas and facts, and which brought those two—students, and ideas and facts—together in a living intercourse.”

Handwritten instructions on how to fold an origami geoduck

Alexander’s hand-written instructions on how to fold an origami geoduck. Download them and try it yourself (PDF).

His wife, Kay Sherman, said, “Family and close friends held a wake to drink Richard’s favorite Hungarian wines and listen to Elizabeth Schwartzkopf singing Strauss’ Four Last Songs. His ashes enrich his old Seattle pea patch, where he served as mentor to young people who were beginning gardeners, and [went] to the ocean at Seaview, the site of his beach place.”

Alexander is survived by Kay, his former wife Adrienne, and his two sons and their families.