From professor to inventor, ‘renaissance woman’ Sandra Alexander was many things | Local

GREENSBORO — She earned a nickname later in life as “the lady who ran out of product.”

Sandra Carlton-Alexander, frustrated trying to replicate the lighted tree balls around Sunset Hills during the holidays, came up with a plastic kit, which is easier to work with than the chicken wire normally used to create the town’s iconic Christmas decoration. town.

Sandra Alexander owns her invention, Holiday Light Ball Kit, at Core Technology Molding Corp. in Greensboro in 2019. She was inspired to do…

It was a new idea. But then, Alexander was a new person.

There was a line of people trying to get their hands on one of Alexander’s tree balls when it ran out at a holiday market in 2019.

Alexander died June 10 at age 74 after spending 30 years as an educator. She retired from NC A&T, her alma mater, in 2003.

But in reality, the valedictorian of A&T’s Class of 1969 was a renaissance woman: professor, inventor, author, businesswoman, entrepreneur, local politician — who battled cancer along the way. Also wife of businessman Rondal Alexander and mother of Tonya and Derrick.

People also read…

“That’s a good word for her – a renaissance woman,” Tonya Alexander said of her mother.

Sandra was a participant in Impact Greensboro and a board member of Triad Stage.

His first business after retirement was an educational themed scenic tour business. Alexander had actors portray historical scenes or monologues by Greensboro natives that were important to the town’s history as a means of educating young and old.

Growing up on a farm in eastern North Carolina, she came to Greensboro to attend A&T.

She told the News & Record in 1992 that it was an exciting time to come of age. She believed that her generation would be able to reach for heaven and not denied like those before her.

She will also know the turmoil of the time. It was during his senior year in 1969 that Alexander experienced days of riots and police on the Aggie campus.

Alexander had been a councilman in the dorm and an eyewitness to the story in what began as a contested student government election at nearby Dudley High School. It ended with the deployment of the National Guard to A&T in what was then called the largest armed assault ever on an American college campus.

“I was at Curtis Hall when the tear gas started flying,” she once said.

After graduating, she earned a master’s degree in English from Harvard University and then a doctorate in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

She was then hired as an English teacher at A&T, served as freshman council director, and eventually was named co-chair of the English department. The programs she started have become an integral part of the campus.

As a technical writer, she helped the university win nearly $1 million in research funding.

But Alexander loved being in class.

And the students loved being in his class.

“I took her for African American literature and she used experiences from her life to tell us about her work,” Latrecia Jones, a former student, told the A&T campus newspaper. “She made you question your views and she opened up our creative sides.

“It makes me sad. I wish the ‘Aggies-to-be’ could have some of the experiences I had with Dr. Alexander.

Meanwhile, Alexander was already writing a first novel, “Black Butterflies: Stories of the South in Transition”, a volume of short stories.

And there was more to come: “Impressions: Six Months in the Life of a Southern Town” was a fictionalized account of four couples from the civil rights movement. She described it as a bit like the movie “The Big Chill”.

A short story — “The Last of the Sunkist Soda” — went on to win first prize in the NC Writers Network fiction competition.

“You come off the farm with good, old American values,” Alexander once said. “Hard work. Determination. Focus. Attention to task. You set your goals and don’t stop until you get where you’re going.”

In 1992, she was one of two NC fiction writers to win a grant from the Greensboro Arts Council.

At the same time, she became involved in her community, serving as chair of the board of directors of the YWCA of Greensboro, where she launched a mentorship program for teenagers.

She served on political campaign committees.

And then she ran for election herself.

She won a seat on the Guilford County School Board – the first black person to win a seat at large – and entered office with a list of goals, including getting more students to read at their level. school and expand technical training for students. don’t go to college.

As for her, she believed that education was the way to achieve her dreams, Tonya Alexander said of her mother.

And she wanted that for the other kids.

“She saw a need, and it’s something she instilled in my brother and me — that when you see a need in the community, you have to do what you can to fill that void,” Tonya said. Alexander.

Tonya recalls the time her mother had to be hospitalized just before the pandemic and the launch that year of the Saturday Heritage Academy for middle schoolers at her church, Genesis Baptist. She asked Tonya to bring her laptop to the hospital. When his daughter returned, Alexander was not in bed.

“She had pulled up a chair and slammed the laptop on the sink in the hospital room,” Tonya Alexander recalled. “I said what are you doing?’ She said, ‘I have to get ready. There’s work to be done.

The academy was designed to be a 10-week enrichment program in language arts, math, and African American history.

Alexander obtained financial assistance from the church, his Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and others. She contracted teachers to oversee language arts and math classes and asked church members to speak to students about their heritage.

It culminated with a trip to places like the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore where a life-size slave ship is housed.

“It was her last baby,” Tonya Alexander said. “She put all her passion into teaching and training the next generation of children who would thirst for knowledge.”

Alexander may never have known his impact on people.

The cards, especially those from former students, left the family in tears. Good tears.

“I think she would like to be remembered,” Tonya Alexander said of her mother, “as a community servant.”

Contact Nancy McLaughlin at 336-373-7049 and follow

@nmclaughlinNR on Twitter.

Lola R. McClure