Dr. A holds a special place in my heart. She gave me many opportunities at Rappahannock Community College to grow, use my skills, and participate in various important projects. I appreciate her belief in me and my abilities; and I cherish her dedication to family and to higher education.

I always admired Dr. A for her accomplishments and how she carried herself in her position. She was and will continue to be such a shining example for our students, having started her education at a community college herself. My favorite memory of Dr. A was hearing her quote something I had said in a presentation I gave earlier in the year. She just had a way of making you feel so accomplished and important…like what I did really mattered and made a difference. I’ll always remember her for that!

I had the great honor and pleasure of serving alongside Donna on the board of the Virginia Network of Women in Higher Education. Donna was always intelligent, thoughtful, warm, and approached issues with humanity and dignity for all involved. Spending time with her was a professional learning experience and a personal joy. Listening to her delight in sharing about her family made it evident as to where her priorities were. I’m so thankful to have known Donna and I am so very deeply sorry that the world has lost such an amazing woman. Her light will continue to shine brightly!

It was a joy serving with Donna on the VA Network Board. She was a consummate professional who truly loved her work on behalf of students in higher education. Her warmth and radiant grace inspired us all to be our best selves and to live life fully. She will be deeply missed.

From the moment she came to campus, Donna was a supporter of students and faculty. As a member of the Health care teaching team-I could see this personally. She was easy to talk to and demonstrated great listening skills. On a personal note- we just seemed to connect as team members. I did try to maintain this connection even after she was no longer on campus, hoping to occasionally buoy her spirits. My thoughts and prayers are with the long list of family as they deal with her passing.

Donna was an amazingly brilliant woman who had a heart to match. She is already missed tremendously. Hugs and prayers to her family.

Donna was the dean who hired me into JTCC, and was a great supervisor that was always ready with excellent advice and input. That being said, it was our personal conversations that are my best memories. She was always able to put away the “boss” hat and we would swap stories of how similar our paths were. We both had children at a young age, got through a divorce, and found the right person to share our lives with the second time around. After she went to Rappahannock, I did not see her very much, but on those occasions, we picked up right where we had left off, with tales of parenting adult children and teens, grandkids in the house, etc. She loved both her work family and home family, and will be remembered lovingly by all who knew her.

Donna — I am so grateful that our personal and professional paths crossed, if only for a year or so. You were a fierce advocate for access and equity for our students and for quality and rigor from our faculty. You knew how to keep everything in balance, showing respect for your staff as individuals with unique needs and backgrounds. As I told you when last we spoke, we will all look out for Grey in the coming years like he’s our own son. Love, Miles

My contact with Donna with primarily through CODD and ASAC. I found Donna to be a kind, intelligent, and compassionate leader. Her leadership style was quiet, yet confident. She was a wonderful person and her presence will be deeply missed.

I am so grateful for Donna’s leadership as we established the Bridging Communities Regional Career and Technical.Center. We appreciate her commitment to CTE education and her unfailing support of our students. She will be missed dreadfully, but her influence will remain in our facility and operations.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Dr. Alexander. She is truly an inspiration. She always shared a warm smile, encouragement, and will be greatly missed.

I had the privilege to work with Donna on the Virginia Network Board. Her insights, dedication and passion for supporting women in higher education in the Commonwealth was phenomenal. Donna was a wonderful gift. Thank you, Donna, for all you did for the VA Network and for higher education.

Farewell distinguished colleague and good friend! May perpetual light shine upon you.

Dr. Alexander will be greatly missed by the RCC community. My deepest condolences go out to her family.

Beloved sister!

Donna was a superb academician who cared deeply about other people and was thoroughly committed to the faculty role in shared governance. She nurtured talent, no matter the age, rank, or experience of those she worked with. She made friends easily, and kept an eye out for people who needed welcoming into whatever circle there was. Donna had the rare ability to marry geekdom and wisdom. The world is a poorer place without Donna Alexander.

It is hard to express how much Donna has meant to me since we both began work at RCC in summer 2011. Donna had so much experience in community college administration and in SACSCOC accreditation standards. I had a lot of experience in teaching and evaluation and research at many levels, but no community college administration experience. Donna took me under her wing and taught me my job. We developed a strong collaborative relation to bring RCC into SACSCOC compliance and most of all to make improvements that benefit students. RCC became a better place as a result of Donna’s efforts and was rewarded with good results when we went through our SACSCOC reviews. At the same time we became close friends as we often traveled to meetings together. She was a listening ear for me and I was for her. I miss her. Her death has left a hole in my heart. Glenda Haynie

I will always remember that she encouraged me to take on leadership roles and supported me every step of the way. There is much I could say, but what comes to mind most is that she was a kind person. When she asked how you were doing, she wanted to hear how you were really doing, and she listened. I will miss her and always remember her.

Dr. Alexander hired me to teach my first class at John |Tyler Community College in 2003. She quickly eased any doubts I had and actually seemed to have more confidence in me than I did in myself that first day! She was a true professional and a great mentor, and I will always be grateful to her for all the opportunities and for her leadership. Her legacy will live on through all the students –and instructors– who had the privilege to be taught by her.

I will always be eternally grateful for Dr. Alexander. She had plenty of life lessons for me. Just when I thought I had mastered something, she came back harder, lol. She just had to teach me more and I loved every minute of it. Towards the end, she surprised me with a beautiful pink rose bush and shared all of her wonderful kind thoughts of me and the feeling was mutual. Her last words to me were, “Keep the faith, believe a better way is coming, stay strong, I love you and miss you.” WOW… that was my Dr. Alexander. I pray that her family will draw comfort and peace from her last words to me.
Rest in heaven my dear friend! You and I will meet again! Love, Karen

Donna Alexander was a natural teacher. She would encourage, mentor, praise and offer guidance. There will be many times in the days to come that her words of advice will come to mind. Donna’s kindness toward others and support of our students will be missed. I will miss our impromptu conversations, her smile and the way her eyes would light up when sharing a story. Donna could be quite funny-especially when trying to repeat a joke! She became a good friend after coming to RCC.
I wish Donna’s family much comfort as they approach the days ahead.

Donna’s smile and empathy filled any room she sat in. I will miss that soul.

Dr. Alexander was beautiful, smart, and always had kind reassuring words encouraging everyone to be their best.

Dr. Donna Alexander

A Tribute to Dr. Avis Donna Alexander

Dr. Avis Donna Alexander departed this life on November 30, 2020, after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Donna led a life filled with accomplishment, beginning her higher education at John Tyler Community College before continuing to complete her bachelor’s degree in English, followed by a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Psychology, all at Virginia Commonwealth University. She subsequently worked serving in different capacities as a medical grant coordinator at MCV before starting her career in the Virginia Community College System as a Professor of Psychology at Northern Virginia Community College and John Tyler Community College. She later served as Dean of Arts and Science for JTCC and capped her career as Vice President of Instruction and Student Development at Rappahannock Community College. She accomplished all of this while raising her four children.

Donna began her academic career while still in graduate school acting as coordinator and researcher on a large project researching medical decision making, when treating patients with congestive heart failure. The research was definitive, resulted in saving countless lives, and improving the quality of life for an enumerable number of individuals around the world.

Although successful and published in medical decision-making research, Donna’s passion was education. Coming from a large family and being the eldest sister, her first students were younger siblings, and she was a natural teacher. She strongly believed in providing others the same opportunity for education she had and returned to teach in the Virginia Community College System. Recognized as a leader, she was selected as Dean of the Arts and Sciences at John Tyler Community College where she was integral in the expansion of JTCC including the opening of the Midlothian campus. Always seeking opportunities for growth, she was selected to serve as Vice President at Rappahannock Community College, where she worked with school and community leaders to provide new opportunities for her students including opening the RCC site in New Kent.

Most important to Donna was her family, for whom she worked hard every day. She is survived by her husband, Dr. Gene Gourley; her children, Alex and his wife Amber, Nicholas and his wife Sarah, Katherine and her husband Ramon, and Grey; her grandchildren, Tyler, Sarah, Emelia Anastasia, Josephina, Angelina, Bryce, and Thomas; her siblings, Edward, Ivan, Andy, Shelley, and Emmet, and numerous other family and friends, who supported her over the years.

Donna was preceded in death by her father, Edward Vernon Alexander of Tarboro, NC and her mother, Marie Carol Welch of Chester, VA. In lieu of flowers, donations in Donna’s memory may be made to the Rappahannock Community College Educational Foundation or the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Due to COVID-19, the family will wait until the Spring to hold a Funeral with Holy Eucharist at the Fork Church in Doswell, Virginia. Information will be posted at when available

Please see the below information on how you can send a memory gift.  Donna was a consistent and generous supporter of the RCC EFI Annual Fund and her family wishes memory gifts go to that purpose.  

Mail a check to:  RCC Educational Foundation, PO Box 923, Warsaw, VA  22572

Or, online:

Please write “Donna Alexander” in the memo line/designation box.

Thank you.

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