Wooster alumna and co-founder of Black Women in Sport Foundation committed to lifting up underrepresented athletes

Alpha Alexander ’76, Photo: DeMario Howard

When Alpha Alexander ’76 was a student athlete at The College of Wooster, she was one of the few Black women on her teams. After graduating with a degree in physical education and eventually earning a Ph.D. in sports psychology, Alexander co-founded the Black Women in Sport Foundation, an organization that supports the involvement of Black women and girls in all aspects of sport.

There weren’t sports available for girls at Alexander’s high school, so she was thrilled to have the opportunity to participate at Wooster. She played volleyball, basketball, tennis, and lacrosse. However, as a Black student on predominately white teams, Alexander said, “I always felt like I was split.” She remembers rushing from a fashion show sponsored by The College of Wooster Black student group to a sports practice. “Being able to socialize was very important in terms of identity. On the other hand, the opportunity for me to participate in sports was very important too,” Alexander said.

While it required exceptional time management, Alexander said that the value of being involved in multiple parts of campus life paid off. “That lifelong connection has really, really lasted on both sides, in terms of African American females as well as in terms of my white teammates,” she said. She is still in touch with many of her friends and teammates from college.

Alexander knew that a significant number of Wooster alumni went on to graduate school, and decided to also follow that path. Two of her most influential Wooster coaches, Nan Nichols and Ginny Hunt, connected Alexander to the women’s athletic program at Temple University, where she was offered a graduate assistantship, and earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. It was at Temple that Alexander met many successful Black women in sport including Tina Sloan Green, a professor and the first African American to play for a U.S. National Lacrosse team and serve as head coach for a women’s college lacrosse team; Nikki Franke, an Olympic fencer and coach; and Linda Greene, a law professor. Together, these four women decided to form the Black Women in Sport Foundation, which just celebrated its 30-year anniversary.

“We wanted to pay attention to a void that we saw by introducing girls of color into non-traditional sport, including fencing, field hockey, lacrosse, and tennis,” Alexander said. “I’m very proud of the people who have been associated with our programs. I can’t tell you how many women and girls that I think we have really touched the lives of.”

In her career, Alexander worked for the Women’s Sports Foundation, where she made important connections with professional athletes, and the YWCA of the USA, where she worked on women’s health issues, netted a contract with Nike to develop women’s volleyball and basketball, and established The Race Against Racism, an event that still exists today. She has received a slate of recognitions for her work including a College of Wooster Distinguished Alumni Award, a NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, and an Olympic Shield Award from the U.S. Olympic Committee. She is in The College of Wooster W Association Hall of Fame, was named one of the 100 Most Influential Student Athletes in History by the NCAA, and recently learned that she will be receiving a Power of Sport Award from the Institute of Sport and Social Justice.

Alexander said being a student athlete at Wooster shaped her career. “The opportunity to participate in sport taught me a lot about building friendships and how to be a team player—the types of things that corporations are looking for in young women today,” she said.

The College also prepared Alexander well for graduate school, since she already had mastered research methods while doing Independent Study. But Alexander noted that Wooster gave her more than career and academic skills; her experience at the College also inspired her to commit her life to helping others. She said that the Wooster community cares about “how you carry yourself after you graduate and the types of things you do to give back to society. I don’t care what color you are; it’s important to be able to get along with everybody and make this world work.”

Photo by DeMario Howard

Posted in Alumni on August 8, 2023.