Fall 1994 Mission

'Mr Ben's' legacy lives on

A.B. "Ben" Alexander was one of the last examples of a vanishing breed of Texans -- rancher, philanthropist and self-made millionaire.

"Mr. Ben," as he was known, died in 1984 at the age of 91. His legacy is embodied in a $3 million gift to the Health Science Center, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio and the Salvation Army.

The generous trust donations from the A.B. Alexander Estate were announced by Walter A. Bielstein, trustee of two Alexander trusts.

Bielstein said he was pleased to carry out the wishes of his friend in compliance with the trust instrument and distribute $1 million each to the three organizations. Alexander specified the Salvation Army as a recipient and directed that other funds go to institutions working in the fields of heart and cancer research.

"Mr. Alexander asked me to select appropriate institutions to receive the endowments for heart and cancer research. The quality of work being done right here in San Antonio is equal to that of any in the nation, and I felt Mr. Alexander would be very proud to have his generous donations support the outstanding physicians and researchers right here at home," Bielstein said.

The A.B. Alexander Chair in Oncology has been established by The University of Texas System Board of Regents from funds contributed to the Health Science Center.

"We are grateful to Mr. Alexander and to Mr. Bielstein for making this generous donation possible," said John P. Howe III, MD, president of the Health Science Center.

"This endowed chair will serve as a lasting memorial to Mr. Alexander and provide important funds for our oncology program," Dr. Howe said.

"Mr. Ben" was born in Round Rock, north of Austin, and spent his later years on his ranch in Cotulla.

As a young man, he learned the shipping, cattle and ranching business with Lykes Brothers Inc., while he was in La Porte, where his father also worked. In 1913, he traveled to Cuba for Lykes and worked on the company's ranches. In 1918, while in Havana, he married Ida O. Busch from La Porte.

The Alexanders returned to the United States when Alexander was drafted into the Army in 1918. Following service at Camp Travis in San Antonio and at Fort Sam Houston, he returned to Cuba for several years.

Shortly after returning to the United States in the 1920s, the Alexanders purchased land near Cotulla in LaSalle County. Until the mid- '40s, Alexander worked for the Federal Intermediate Credit Bank of Houston as a livestock loan inspector, while continuing ranching in LaSalle County. Alexander continued to acquire small parcels of land as finances permitted. At the time of his death, he owned and operated more than 9,000 acres.

Alexander was a charter member of the Santa Gertrudis International group and also a charter member and director of the South Texas Santa Gertrudis Breeders Association.

He was a supporter and life member of the San Antonio Livestock Exposition and a member of Texas and Southwestern Cattleraisers Association.

"Mr. Ben" and his wife were known for their many contributions to their community of Cotulla. They contributed funds to area churches, donated the land for the American Legion post and donated land and funds to build the Alexander Memorial Library. Alexander was a longtime director of Stockmens National Bank there.

Mrs. Alexander, an accomplished pianist and piano teacher, died in 1977. But the legacy of the Alexanders is alive in Texas and being carried out on the frontiers of science and medicine.

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