By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer
DELHI TWP. - For nearly half a century, Sister Alfreda Alexander challenged her college and high school students with a smile.
"She brought the best out of her students by her very mannerisms," said Sister Angela Marie Chiado, whose friend of 45 years passed away Monday. "She had a very compassionate, loving manner. Even when she was correcting someone, she did it with a smile."
Sister Alexander, a longtime chemistry teacher at the College of Mount St. Joseph and advocate for social justice, died Monday at the Mother Margaret Hall nursing home on the Sisters of Charity campus in Delhi Township. She was 91.
The native of Russia, Ohio, was a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati for 72 years.
She spent more than half her life at the institution of learning that she loved - first as an undergraduate student in chemistry at the College of Mount St. Joseph, then, after receiving her master's degree at the University of Notre Dame, as a professor at the Catholic college in Delhi Township.
Sister Alexander was a chemistry professor at the College of Mount St. Joseph for more than 40 years, from before World War II until the Reagan years, and chaired the chemistry department for 14 of those years. Colleagues say she conveyed the complexities of chemistry to her students by repeating, and repeating, and by keeping her explanations simple. She worked long hours and was always available to tutor her students after class.
Sister Alexander authored a chemistry laboratory manual, Experiments in General Chemistry, in 1959.
"It seems like she was a chemistry teacher for a million years," said Sister John Miriam Jones, a friend of Sister Alexander's for decades and former academic dean at the college. "She had this soft-spoken voice, and she carried herself with truth."
Before going into university teaching, she taught at St. Lawrence School in Price Hill in 1933 and 1934, then at high schools in Springfield and Cleveland for three years during the Depression.
She didn't quit serving Cincinnati's west side when she retired in 1981. Sister Alexander volunteered for the Clovernook Home for the Blind and the St. Xavier Society for the Blind, recording an audiotape for blind people to learn from scientific journals.
"Once you get into teaching, it gets into your being, and that's the way it was with her," Chiado said. "You want to share your knowledge with everyone. She used every means at her disposal to better her students."
Sister Alexander was preceded in death by her seven siblings, including one who was also a Sister of Charity.
Visitation will be in the Immaculate Conception Chapel at Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse on Thursday from 1-3 p.m. Mass of Christian burial will follow.
Memorials can be made in Sister Alfreda Alexander's name to the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Retirement Fund, 5900 Delhi Road, Mount St. Joseph, OH, 45051.
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