Dr. Livingston Alexander, president emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, chronicles his personal and professional journey, from the Jim Crow south and the height of the Civil Rights movement to the present day, in his new memoir, “Chasing the Silver Lining.”
To celebrate the book’s launch, Alexander will return to Pitt-Bradford for a visit, a talk and a book signing at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16, 2022, which will be part of the university’s annual Spectrum Series.
Alexander’s memoir is a three-part narrative covering three distinct time periods in his life. Each section, which builds upon the previous one, includes revelations that empowered him, lessons he learned, and wisdom he acquired.
Writing his memoir had been on Alexander’s mind for quite some time.
“It’s a story that’s been bursting to come out for as long as I can remember,” he said.
“For a long time, I considered my journey extraordinary and perhaps scripted out for me in advance,” Alexander explained. “As early in life as I can remember, challenges and hardships confronted me; and the resolutions (or ‘silver linings’ as I like to call them) followed without exception. Some resolutions sprang from my inner core; others came from persons who showed up just in time to lend a hand. That became the story of my life, my journey.”
The more Alexander reflected on his journey – the revelations he experienced and the wisdom he acquired – the more he wanted to share it with others.
“Writing the book and sharing my story then became a driving impulse,” he said. “In spite of the impoverished background from which I came, I began to feel to whom much is given, much is expected in return.”
The book is a labor of love for the man who grew up poor in Louisiana during the Civil Rights movement and, after earning a doctorate in educational psychology, began his academic career as an assistant professor of psychology and eventually advanced to become Pitt-Bradford’s third president.
Alexander served as Pitt-Bradford’s president for 15 years. A few years before he retired in June 2018, he began work on the book.
Despite that strong desire to write it, penning such a deeply personal account wasn’t always easy, particularly when he addressed some particularly troubling topics and events.
“It was indeed difficult to revisit some of those events,” Alexander said. “However it’s amazing how therapeutic it can be to go back in time and dissect those distressing experiences and their lasting repercussions.
“When you do so with a more mature perspective and wisdom acquired over time, you relieve a great deal of the lingering trauma that, though buried within, continued to have adverse effects on self-perception.”
Alexander admits he feels a great sense of accomplishment in finishing his memoir and seeing it published, and he hopes it positively affects those who read it.
“I’ll feel a much greater sense of accomplishment if this work contributes in some small way to enriching the lives of one or more people, whether or not I personally encountered them during my journey.”
Alexander said throughout his career, he’s worked to gather people of all races, nationalities, genders, religions and sexual orientations to work together to help create a better society, one that is racially just and respects all people.
“I hope the book contributes in some small way to that end.”
Readers of Alexander’s memoir will notice a photo on the cover of him as a boy. Alexander had a specific reason for choosing that particular image to grace the cover.
“I owe everything I’ve done in life to the boy represented in that photo. He endured much more than his share of hardship, disappointment, shame and anxiety. Yet, he prevailed over all of it, somehow knowing silver linings would invariably appear following each distressing circumstance.
“I learned about hardship, patience and silver linings from that boy. That was the most powerful revelation that occurred to me during the process of writing this book.”