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Donna Alexander Lander , PhD

December 2, 1942 June 14, 2021
Donna Alexander Lander , PhD
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Obituary for Donna Alexander Lander , PhD

Donna Alexander Lander, wife of Jim and mother of J.R. died on Monday, June 14th, at the age of 78.

Born on December 2nd 1942 in Portsmouth, Ohio, she grew up across the river in South Shore Kentucky, where early on it was clear she was bright and gifted. She was beloved by her aunts and uncles who were far less intimidated and irritated by her than her mother and father. At age 14, she gained a younger sister, Natalie, whom she adored.

Donna graduated from Morehead State University in Kentucky and gained a master's degree at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania before earning her PhD in Educational Leadership at the University of Minnesota. She taught and counseled in schools in Kentucky, DC, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Ohio before moving to Mississippi in 1985. She served in leadership at the State Department of Education and later on faculty at the School of Education at Jackson State University. It is not an overstatement to say that she improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people between her teaching and leadership.

In 1968, in Louisville, Kentucky, Donna met James R. Lander Jr., (Jim) on the day of the Kentucky Derby. (Jim went to the Derby with another date, but later recognized his error.) They married later in the year. Though somewhat fearful of flying, she somehow put up with following him on various wanderings around the world. (Many photos from these trips show her with facial expressions ranging from joyful to irritated.) In 1976, she gave birth to their only son, James R. Lander III (J.R.) who disappointed her by only getting two masters degrees (and not a doctorate).

Donna was an active member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson, where she was a long-time member of the Parish Choir. Donna had joined the Episcopal Church after marrying Jim, being drawn to the liturgy, mysticism, and music of the Anglican tradition. (not to mention the fact Episcopalians are just so much darn fun.)

Donna will be mourned by the many nieces and nephews (from family of birth and family of choice) who lovingly feared her, and who were inspired by her life. She will be missed by colleagues and students who learned and grew from working with her, And she will always be loved by her husband and son, who will miss her encouragement, wicked sense of humor, laughter, and extravagant love.

Donna’s life will be celebrated at 2PM on Friday, June 25th, at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, where her ashes will be interred in the columbarium. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to St. Andrew’s Cathedral ( or Morehead State University (

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Previous Events

Funeral Service




2:00 PM 6/25/2021 2:00:00 PM
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral

305 E Capitol Street
Jackson, MS 39201

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral
305 E Capitol Street Jackson 39201 MS
United States

Memorial Contribution

Morehead State University

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral

305 E Capitol Street
Jackson, MS 39201

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