Christine Alexander, the founder of New Haven Reads and wife of a University vice president, died Sunday after a decade-long battle with breast cancer. She was 66.
Alexander came to New Haven in 1998, when husband Bruce Alexander ’65 signed on as the University’s vice president for New Haven and state affairs. In her 12 years in the city, Alexander established herself as a leader in the city’s literacy movement, overseeing the growth of New Haven Reads into a statewide leader in literacy efforts.
“Chris created an incredible safe and secure environment for the students where their tutors tell them they can succeed and find a way to make that success happen,” Ethel Berger, a board member and volunteer at New Haven Reads, told the Register. Since 2004, New Haven Reads has distributed more than 725,000 free books, according to the organization’s website. Over 450 students receive its after-school tutoring services each week.
A nurse by training who held a history degree from Duke, Alexander was one of two people named United Way’s Volunteer of the Year in 2008 for her work with New Haven Reads, and this April, she received a Seton Elm award for strengthening relations between the city and the University. In addition to her volunteer work with New Haven Reads, Alexander sat on the boards of the Literacy Coalition of New Haven and Greater New Haven Literacy Volunteers.
“It’s almost impossible to think how the literacy movement can go forward without her,” said Doss Venema, the executive of the Literacy Volunteers board. “She was such a powerful voice.”
In addition to her husband, Alexander is survived by her two sons — both of whom work in education — two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. A memorial service for Alexander will be held later this summer.
Alexander’s family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, a donation of books or volunteer time be made to New Haven Reads.