Dr. Alexander L. Pickens, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa College of Education professor emeritus and former assistant to the dean for college development, passed away on June 23, 2012. Ardent and longtime supporters of fundraising, Pickens and his wife established an endowment fund, named the Frances M.J. & Alexander Pickens Scholarship Fund in Secondary Education. Today, the college’s development office is dedicated to him for his legacy of fundraising.
Beginning his career as a public school teacher, Pickens earned a BA in English from Southern Methodist University, an MA in art from North Texas State University, and an EdD in fine arts from Columbia University. He taught at the University of Michigan and the University of Georgia before settling in Hawai‘i in 1962.
An associate professor of art education at the College of Education, Pickens was promoted to full professor in 1969. He would additionally serve as assistant to the dean for college development, a position he helped to create in 1989. Investing his own resources and encouraging others to do the same, Pickens obtained funds to commemorate the college’s 50th anniversary in 1981. He continued to raise money for scholarships and endowments until his retirement in 2001.
“I give because of the need,” Pickens said in a 2011 interview. “From what I have seen over my 39 years with the college, the students are very responsible. Many of them are single parents, most have part-time jobs, and some are supporting parents and grandparents. The College of Education is still very important to me and my wife, and our desire is to support its future.”
In 1989, Pickens was honored with a Regents Medal for Excellence in Teaching. Among his numerous other awards and achievements, he was given the Award of Excellence for Commitment and Service to the college’s alumni association in 1996 and the College Benefactor Award in 2008.
Dean Donald B. Young said, “I had the pleasure of working with and even co-teaching with Alex over several years. He was unmatched in his compassion for others and dedication to improving education at all levels. His presence will be truly missed.”
Throughout his career, Pickens served as an art education consultant who organized, designed, and raised funds for art exhibitions and projects. He worked steadily through summers and spent his sabbatical leaves in the 1970s and 80s researching art history at Yale; conducting Smithsonian Institute study tours in Greece and England; and visiting schools in Morocco, Egypt, and Kenya.
Active in the community, Pickens served on the Board of Directors for the Honolulu Theater for Youth from 1997 to 2001 and sat on the Boards of Directors for the Honolulu Symphony from 1998 to 2010 and Chamber Music Hawai‘i from 2002 to 2012. A celebration of life will be held in Honolulu in mid-August to honor Pickens and his accomplishments. Donations in his memory may be made to Chamber Music Hawai‘i and sent to P.O. Box 61939, Honolulu, HI 96839.