Faculty Making a Lasting Impact
The students of Dr. Winser Alexander have created the WEA Endowment Committee to honor Alexander’s legacy during his time at NC State.
December 27, 2022 Isabella Mormando
At NC State, it matters that all students are seen and enabled to achieve their fullest potential. Winser Alexander is a perfect embodiment of this principle. During his time as a professor and director of graduate programs in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Alexander helped graduate the largest number of African-American Ph.D. students in the department. To show gratitude for his mentorship and continued guidance, the students of Alexander have created the Winser Alexander Endowment in his honor.
Elebeoba May, now an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, credits much for her success to the guidance she received from Alexander while a student at NC State.
May recounted a rocky start at NC State as an undergraduate in the Caldwell Fellows program. Lost in the monotony of day-to-day classes, she needed something to reinvigorate her love for engineering. As one of her professors, Alexander noticed and did exactly that. His persistent invitations convinced May to join his research group and become an undergraduate researcher under his guidance.
“It was really pivotal for me… it kind of reset my focus and got me engaged in school again,” May explained.
From joining his lab, May and Alexander’s relationship grew into what she now describes him as an “academic father.” Whenever she applied for grants or jobs, she knew Alexander would provide invaluable advice that would help her achieve her goals, and she did.
Cranos Williams, a joint faculty member of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Plant and Microbiology at NC State, shares a very similar experience with Alexander.
Williams met Alexander while he was an undergraduate student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. At the time, Alexander was a visiting professor who guided Williams into pursuing graduate school at NC State University.
After finishing his Ph.D. under Alexander’s advisement, Williams took on an assistant professor role at NC State. During the first few years of this role, William explained that Alexander “was extremely pivotal” in making him believe in his own success.
Being an underrepresented faculty member in the department presented challenges and self-doubt for Williams. But Alexander taught him that “success breeds acceptance” and that kept Williams hopeful. His success in academia continues to grow. Today, Williams is the NC State Plant Sciences Platform Director for Data Driven Plant Scienes and Goodnight Distinguished Professor in Agricultural Analytics.
Many of Alexander’s students have the same advice and mentorship embedded in their minds. Alexander believed in his students and taught them how to believe in themselves.
“Dr. A saw me when it felt like no one else saw me,” May described. Since leaving NC State, May recognizes that her academic connection with Alexander made NC State “mean something even more.”
To honor the importance of the relationship Alexander built with his students, the WEA Endowment Committee was formed.
Upon his retirement from NC State, the students who were impacted the most by Alexander wanted to honor his legacy by creating the Winser Alexander Endowment. “We want NC State, we want our department to know that it mattered that he was there,” said May. When creating the endowment, the committee members wanted to answer the question “who’s going to continue being that person who sees the people who sometimes are not seen?”