Mitchell K. "Mitch" Alexander, director of events services at McDaniel College who earlier had been student activities director, died Feb. 19 at St. Agnes Hospital. He was 56.
"We do not have a cause of death and the results of an autopsy are pending," said his wife of 29 years, the former Mildred Artis.
"It is a shock to lose one so young who was so valuable to the college," said Joyce Muller, associate vice president of communications and marketing at McDaniel College. "He was always so helpful to me coordinating college and student events. He was behind the scenes, but the work he did was so valuable."
The son of Harry Alexander, a house painter, and Louise Jones, a factory worker, Mitchell Keith Alexander was born in Baltimore and raised on Linden Avenue. After graduating in 1976 from Lake Clifton High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in 1980 in history with a minor in education from what was then Western Maryland College.
While an undergraduate, Mr. Alexander worked in student affairs as a part-time Decker Center building manager during the evenings and on weekends.
After teaching school for a year at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, Mr. Alexander returned in 1983 to his alma mater when he was named assistant director of college activities.
In 1986, he earned a master's degree in school administration, and two years later, took a job as director of student activities at Post University in Waterbury, Conn. After 16 months, he returned to McDaniel as student activities director.
"Mitch will be best remembered for his work with student activities. He always had a big smile on his face when working with students," said Ms. Muller. "He counseled and cheered them up, and he always had good words of advice. He was an anchor."
James A. Felton, who is now director of intercultural affairs at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., met Mr. Alexander when he was a student at McDaniel.
"He was my mentor, supervisor, colleague and friend. I worked with him in student activities for a year and a half between 1994 and 1995," said Mr. Felton.
"Mitch was a big brother and father figure to so many on campus. He was such a fixture to so many on campus," he said. "He was there morning, noon and night, and his door was always open. Students knew they could always go to him."
Mr. Alexander was a physically imposing man, said Mr. Felton.
"He was this big, hulking guy and somewhat physically intimidating until he flashed that big smile, which put everyone at ease. He always held us accountable and praised us when we did good things," he said.
"When I lost two classmates, Mitch looked after me. He'd knock on my door to check on me. He was always thinking about and encouraging you," said Mr. Felton.
A 1993 article in the McDaniel student newspaper described Mr. Alexander as having "the whole campus in his hands."
In his role as director of events services, a position he had held since 2009, Mr. Mitchell was described in The McDaniel Free Press as the "man with all the answers" and the "go-to guy."
"More recently, his campus knowledge was invaluable for his expertise and guidance for event staging and set-ups," said Ms. Muller. "He was working with both the college staging events and some 80 student organizations, which takes a lot of coordination."
Mary Jo Colbert who is director of conference and auxiliary services at McDaniel, worked closely with Mr. Alexander through the years.
"If I had to use one word to describe Mitch, it would be strength. It fit him perfectly, and his strength touched so many lives," said Ms. Colbert. "He was a role model for lots of our students and he mentored them. He was an African-American man, a family man, and a professional man. He had strong religious beliefs. He will be missed."
Ms. Colbert said that as Mr. Alexander made his way across campus, he always called out to the students.
"He seemed to know everyone, whether they were a freshman or a graduate student. He always had a kind word and a word of encouragement," she said. "And whenever we had homecoming or a reunion, people who had graduated 10, 15 or 25 years ago were always asking, 'Where's Mitchell?' and then sought him out."
Ms. Colbert said that when she and Mr. Alexander would occasionally disagree, "he still had that heavenly smile on his face."
Mr. Alexander was a physical fitness buff. The Catonsville resident enjoyed watching wrestling and caring for his indoor plants. He also liked watching "Cops," his favorite TV show, and James Bond movies, said Mrs. Alexander.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Loudon Park Funeral Home, 3620 Wilkens Ave.
In addition to his wife and parents, Mr. Alexander is survived by a son, Blake C. Alexander of Catonsville, who is a student at the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville; a daughter, Paige M. Alexander, 15, a freshman at Catonsville High School; three brothers, Gary Alexander of Catonsville, Tyrone Alexander of Philadelphia and Kevin Alexander of Jacksonville, Fla.; and his stepmother, Cora Alexander of Baltimore.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun