Morristown’s Dr. Alpha Alexander has seen a great deal of change in women’s sports over her career at the highest levels of women’s athletics.
Her road started with not having any girls’ sports in the Ohio community in which she was raised to participating in sports herself in college.
Her professional career took her to prominent roles in the Olympic and professional tennis communities, as well in key positions in women’s college athletics in places like Temple University in Philadelphia.
Now, a book, “They Carried Us,” by Allener M. Baker-Rogers and Fasaha M. Traylor, has been released profiling the contributions of African-American women who shaped the city of Philadelphia.
“It tells the story of (African-American) women in Philadelphia from 1694 to the present,” Alexander said. “There are judges, doctors, journalists, politicians and of course, athletes, in the book.
“The transitions of the stories of the women in this book is powerful.”
Alexander earned her master’s and doctorate degrees at Temple University, as well as serving as assistant athletic director – and later – women’s athletic director.
“The beauty of being mentioned in the book is there are so many strong black women representing this city,” said Alexander, who recently returned from a book-launching ceremony in Philadelphia honoring the women featured. “Across the sections in that room alone, it was very uplifting to attend and be honored.”
During the ceremony, Alexander ran into a fellow honoree, a former player who she hadn’t seen in several decades.
“One of my first students who was recruited when I was athletic director at Temple was Marilyn Stephens, who became an All-American,” Alexander said. “I hadn’t seen her in over 20 years, and she was there with her husband.
“There is a chapter dedicated to her in the book as well.”
A time capsule was also unveiled for the attendees to place mementos inside. The capsule will be donated to a local school to be opened in 2045.
Alexander placed a photo of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna that she took at last year’s WNBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas inside the capsule with her signature.
“I donated that photo to represent the role fathers play with their daughters in girls’ sports,” she said.
Alexander is also one of the co-founders of the Black Women in Sport Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase the involvement of black women and girls in all aspects of sport, including athletics, coaching and administration. Founded in 1992, BWSF enrolls girls and boys in programs conducted throughout Philadelphia and surrounding areas, facilitating the involvement of women of color in every aspect of sport in the United States and around the world, through the “hands-on” development and management of grass roots level outreach programs.
Though she resides in Morristown, Alexander is still a member of the BWSF Board of Directors, and continues to help develop programs designed to further the enrichment of children into sports.
When Alexander first arrived in Philadelphia as a graduate student from Ohio, it was a bit of a culture shock.
“I came from The College of Wooster, the ‘Harvard of the Midwest,’” she said. “I’m country, so when I went to Temple, I’m thinking it’s a black college.
“I had never seen a cop on a horse, or anything like that, until I came to Philadelphia.”
As the stories have been told, you have to be a tough person to live in Philadelphia. Alexander had her moments of toughness over the years living in the city, some more harrowing than others.
“When I was at Temple, I remember walking to my car – and some guy was breaking into it,” she said. “I chased after him, cornered him – and he pulled out a knife.
“That area’s a lot more gentrified now, but you have to be tough to live in Philly.”
Also during her time in Philadelphia, Alexander recalled many occasions being “the only black person in the room,” but knowing how to handle the situation professionally.
“It’s about making your voice be heard, yet working well with a group,” she said. “It’s happened here in Morristown as well, but those are lessons I learned in college at Wooster, so I know what it’s like to be the only black women in the room, and I still do sometimes, but I know how to handle it.”
Though she loves living in East Tennessee, Alexander does miss life in Philadelphia.
“This city has a very long and rich history dating back to the 17th century,” she said. “It’s like home to me. It’s between New York and Washington, D.C.
“I miss the music, and I miss the love and the passion (Philadelphians) have for sports.”
On March 25, there will be a book signing at Morristown-Hamblen Library for “They Carried Us” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.