The Center for Spiritual Life and Wholeness announces with great sadness the passing of our founding director, Dr. Wilber Alexander. Although he quietly passed away on Wednesday, November 16th, we see it as a temporary goodbye. We will meet again and continue to live out the best of God's story together.
Dr. Alexander founded the Center for Spiritual Life and Wholeness in 1996 (with Dr. Carla Gober-Park as his Associate Director who became Director in 2005) with the goal of developing the art and science of whole person care, a concept he introduced to the Loma Linda University health campus in 1973. Through the years, Wil’s impact has been far-reaching and steadfast, even attending rounds up until the last months of his life. At 95 years old, Wil never waivered in his call to ensure that all health caregivers and students understood the power of connecting to the patient’s whole story. His legacy lives on in the lives of those he taught and through the Center he lovingly founded. The word, “innerweave” was one of his favorite words because it captured how he “wove” together the various strands of medicine and healthcare, using Family Medicine as the clinical setting where ideas were tested. Recently, the Center ensured that Wil’s legacy would forever be documented through a film on Wil’s life and work called A Certain Kind of Light. The film details Wil’s work and how others on campus are continuing to teach whole person care to the next generation of caregivers. His legacy has been further established by the CLEAR Whole Person Care Model, a model based on the power of story to change lives.
Wil lived his life according to the phrase, “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God be the Glory). He was also known for asking those whom he encountered, “What are you famous for?” We are confident that for Wil’s life, the answer would be, “To care for the whole story.”
Helping to pioneer whole person care on the Loma Linda University Health campus, he embodied an uncanny ability to connect at a heart level with patients and all who knew him. Almost every day we meet people who tell stories of how he baptized them, performed their weddings, baptized their children, or simply took them under his wing. Whether he was preaching, teaching for the School of Medicine or the School of Religion, rounding with Family Medicine or simply meeting a person in the elevator, his keen sense of how to elicit story was mystical.
Wil was the finest storyteller among us, but more importantly, the finest listener of stories. His last conversation with Carla Gober-Park (the night before he died) went like this:
Wil: " We did well, didn't we?"
Carla: "Yes, we did."
Wil:"Are we done?"
Wil: "Ha Ha! True! We have much more to do together!"
There will be a memorial service in the New Year. Details will follow.