Professor Emeritus of Communication Ronald Alexander, who spent 18 years teaching documentary filmmaking to Stanford graduate students, died on May 7 at 94 years old.
“Ron had high standards,” his former student Tina DiFeliciantonio AM ’87, now a professional filmmaker, told Stanford News. “He didn’t accept excuses and challenged each of us to be a force of nature. He was thoughtful, patient, and he had a great sense of humor. When someone made him laugh, it was well earned.”
Alexander grew up in Ontario with an enthusiasm for music. After serving in the Canadian Army and later the Air Force, he took a university course and discovered his love of film. He landed his first job in the film world by chance: He met the wife of the National Film Board of Canada’s commissioner while serving as porter for a sleeping car on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Alexander’s lucky encounter led the commissioner to recommend him to the Board’s technical research department.
Alexander went on to accumulate nearly 300 film credits while working as an award-winning re-recording sound mixer for the Board. He was also an inventor: He patented CUE VUE, a tool for mixing soundtracks that is still widely used today.
Alexander’s years of experience helped him land a permanent job at Stanford after just a six-month stint as visiting lecturer in the communication department — despite not having a college degree. He retired from Stanford in 1988 but kept in touch with many of his students, who told Stanford News that they remembered Alexander for a warm but demanding and detail-oriented teaching style. The film teacher often sported a cap bearing the words “Excellence, not perfection.”
In a 1998 profile of Alexander that ran in the Peninsula Times Tribune, the professor called attention to detail “the main thing I try to impart.”
“This is the only way student filmmakers will become excellent,” he said.
Just as students praised their former teacher, Alexander’s Stanford colleagues also spoke fondly of him.
“Ron was a true gentleman whose strong principles and dedication were the armature of a life well lived,” said Kristine Samuelson A.M. ’73, professor emerita of art and art history.
A memorial service for Alexander will take place July 20 at 4 p.m. at Stanford’s Memorial Church. Instead of giving flowers, those honoring Alexander are asked to donate to the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum in Ontario or to any other charitable organization.
Contact Hannah Knowles at hknowles ‘at’ stanford.edu.