Nature 39

Ronald Alexander

December 14, 2019


Ronald William Alexander, 83, of Dryden, NY, left this world surrounded by loving family on December 14, 2019. Born on June 2, 1936, to William T. Alexander and Viola Pellegrini Alexander, Ron was blessed to have been married for 28 years to Victoria Kingston Alexander. Together they had 5 daughters and 9 grandchildren: Amy Tatro Rhault (Rochester, NY), her husband Michael and children Lillian and Nicholas; Penelope Tatro Carpenter (Dryden, NY), her husband Gabriel and children Josiah and Alexandra; Kathryn J. Alexander (Santa Fe, NM) and her children Tatiana and Kahlil Norbeck; Elaine Alexander Blaser (Santa Fe, NM), her husband Brian and sons Nate and Simon; and Lisa M. Alexander (Ithaca, NY), her son Stephen W. Foote and daughter-in-law Megan Swift Foote. He is also survived by a sister, Judith Alexander Shablow; dear friends George and Patricia Schlecht and Norman and Olivia Culver. In his own words, he said, “The real beauty of my life, for which I was forever thankful, were my daughters, lovely and wonderfully understanding wife, and my close friends. They all made life worthwhile.”

Ron’s life was one filled with love. He loved a joke; the sillier, the better. His puns, a talent for which came from his father, were met equally with laughs and groans. He loved being out in nature: on his sailboat, in a kayak he made, hiking, canoeing, or on a beach. He loved his dogs and cats. He could identify a bird by its song, and he loved them all. He had a deep love for learning, which he passed on to his kids. A professor of biology and anatomy at Tompkins Cortland Community College, his students loved him and always knew he cared deeply for them. 

He was raised in a loving Italian family in the Bronx and often shared fond memories of his parents, sister, and many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Summers spent at Camp Sharparoon in the Catskills with his cousins are the stuff of legend. His love for his family was always evident in his selflessness and generosity. No matter what, Ron’s kids, extended family, and close friends always knew they could count on him to drop everything to help them in any way he could.

In contemplating his life, Ron wrote, “The beauty that surrounds us all from Earth itself is totally consuming. We should all stop our crazy lives and take time for the natural noises and singings, flowers, streams, and all our loving God has given us.” A walk with Ron wasn’t just a walk; it was a learning experience, as he constantly pointed out a rare flower, an interesting leaf, a cool newt, or a weird bug. His appreciation for nature was passed on to his children and they will always have the love of learning they got from him.

In his quest for constant improvement, Ron accomplished an astounding number of educational and professional goals. He went back to graduate school many times and accumulated 130 hours beyond his M.S. from SUNY Albany. These included 6 National Science Foundation Faculty fellowships: Cornell University in Radiation Biology at the Vet College; S.U.N.Y. Albany in Physical chemistry; Utah State University in Computer Systems Modeling of Engineering and Biological systems; Purdue University in Audio Tutorial Teaching and Design; Arizona State University in Desert Ecology; Cold Spring Harbor Genetics in Recombinant DNA technology (at James Watson’s Lab); as an extension, Ron was chosen to go to the University of Puerto Rico (Mayaguez) to continue 80 hours of DNA Technology. 

His hard work earned him many awards, including the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at Tompkins Cortland Community College; E. Lawrence Palmer Award for Contributions to Conservation Education from Cornell University; Appointed by the Chancellor to the selection committee for Distinguished Professor Awards for S.U.N.Y; Appointed Senior Lecturer at Cornell University (Microbiology, Nutrition); Appointed lecturer at U.N.C. Chapel Hill Medical School for 3 years; Acting Chairman Education Dept. & Coordinator of Student Teaching at Ithaca College. 

Ron loved the ocean and really enjoyed his time working with the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, where he developed Marine Biology Field Courses. He also developed courses in Microbiology, Ecology, Field Natural History, and Genetics at TC3. Before being a founding professor at TC3, he was an Assistant Prof. of Biology at S.U.N.Y. Oneonta, Albany, and Cortland. He was published several times, including 2 editions of the Laboratory Manual for Biological Science and Anatomy Modules under an ARC grant published and used by Armed Forces in Nursing Training.

Ron was active in the Village and Town of Dryden, serving as Consultant to the Town of Dryden for Wetland Delineations within the Township; elected Dryden Justice for 5 years; and Village Trustee for 6 years. His love for animals had him serving on the Board of Directors for the Tompkins County SPCA for several years and serving as Treasurer for 2 years. Some long-time Dryden residents may remember his many comedic turns acting with the Dryden Footlighters.

Even with all of his professional and educational pursuits, he was first and foremost a doting father who took the most pride of all in his children. He always found time for all of them and they knew how very lucky they were to have him in their lives. 

Ron was predeceased by his beloved grandson Nate and dear friends Ted Lange, Suzanne Cardwell, and Robert Cardwell. He loved them so much and was deeply moved by their passing.

Ron didn’t want any public service, so his family requests donations be made to a cause dear to his heart, the Tompkins County SPCA, where he and Vicki adopted their beloved kitties. The family would also love it if you would go for a walk in his honor, enjoy the peace and nature sounds that surround you, and take notice of the glory that only Mother Nature can provide us. Then make up a silly pun and tell it to as many people as you can! A Celebration of his life will be held in the Summer of 2020.


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