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About Eben Alexander
Eben Alexander (March 9, 1851, Knoxville - March 11, 1910) was an American scholar, educator, dean and ambassador.
Alexander attended the University of Tennessee (then known as East Tennessee University) for two years, entered Yale in 1869, and graduated from Yale in 1873 with an A.B. He was initiated into Yale's Skull and Bones in 1873. After graduation, Alexander returned to Knoxville and taught Greek at the University of Tennessee, first as an instructor and then as Professor. In 1886, he moved to the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, where from 1886 to 1893 he was Professor of Greek language and literature.
In 1893 President Grover Cleveland appointed him "Envoy Extraordinary, Minister Plenipotentiary, and Consul General to Greece, Roumania, and Servia" [sic]. As ambassador to Greece, he helped in the revival of the Olympic Games, making the first cash contribution to the organizing committee, encouraging the participation of American athletes, and with his wife hosting numerous social events during the period of the games, which ran from April 6 to April 15, 1896.
On his return from Greece, Alexander resumed teaching Greek at the University of North Carolina. He introduced modern Greek into the curriculum and served as academic dean from 1900 or 1901 until the time of his death. Perhaps more importantly, he worked, both before and after his time in Greece, to improve the University's library, serving as supervisor of the University library in 1891-1893 and again from 1901 on. During his tenure as supervisor, a new Carnegie library was built, and the University hired its first real librarian, Louis Round Wilson.
In 1905 Alexander was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece, an honor society at the University of North Carolina that was modeled on Yale's Skull and Bones. During the academic year 1909-1910 Alexander's health began to fail. He took a leave of absence in the spring of 1910, returned to Knoxville, and there died on March 11, 1910. The University of North Carolina 1911 annual yearbook, Yackety Yack, was dedicated in his memory.
Eben Alexander's father, Ebenezer Alexander, was a prominent judge in Tennessee, and his grandfather, Adam Rankin Alexander, was the founder of Alexandria, Tennessee and a member of the House of Representatives from 1823 to 1827.
Alexander married Marion Howard-Smith in 1874, and they had four children, two sons and two daughters. Alexander was the father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather of four Eben Alexanders, although his son, a Knoxville physician, is regarded as Eben Alexander, Sr. His grandson, called Eben Alexander, Jr., was a prominent neurosurgeon who served as Chief of Neurosurgery at Wake Forest University from 1948 to 1978. Eben Alexander III is also a neurosurgeon and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.