Dr. Robert E. Alexander was named Chancellor of the University of South Carolina Aiken in 1983 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 2000. He was at the forefront of the discussions for a new Division II athletic conference in 1988 at a meeting in Greenville, S.C., and later hosted the December 3, 1989, meeting where the foundations for the Peach Belt Conference were laid. A tireless advocate of creating a league that emphasized both athletic and academic success, Dr. Alexander was elected by the other Presidents and Chancellors as the Chairman of the PBAC Board of Directors, hosted the first PBC annual meetings in Aiken and served as chairman and was also elected the first PBAC President. He negotiated the contract for the hiring of the first PBAC Commissioner, Marvin Vanover.
Under Dr. Alexander's leadership, USC Aiken, once a small branch of the University of South Carolina, began to thrive. Enrollment doubled, and student/faculty ratios are among the lowest within South Carolina's state assisted four year public institutions. Undergraduate degree programs tripled, and several graduate programs became a part of the university.
During his tenure as Chancellor, Dr. Alexander was a strong advocate for Pacer athletics and was instrumental in getting the initial funding for the Convocation Center. The following intercollegiate sports were added at USC Aiken while Chancellor: men's soccer (1984), softball (1987), women's cross country (1989), men's tennis (1992), women's tennis (1996) and women's soccer (1997).
USC-Aiken saw dramatic improvements in its infrastructure during Dr. Alexander's tenure. Among them are the expansion of the Gregg-Graniteville Library and the Etherredge Center for Fine Arts in 1986, and the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center and the School of Nursing Building in 1999; construction of a state-of-the-art Sciences Building in 1989; the Children's Center and the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center in 1991; the Business Education Building in 1994; the DuPont Planetarium in 1995; the natatorium in 1997; relocation of the historic Pickens-Salley House to the USC-Aiken Campus; and acquisition of Pacer Downs student apartments.
In 1999, he received the Earl Kaufftman Award from the USC-Aiken Academy for Lifelong Learning for his commitment to providing educational opportunities for senior citizens. The Student Personnel Association at the University of South Carolina awarded him the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 1996. In 1990, the University of South Carolina Black Faculty and Professional Staff Association honored him with an honorable mention award for Affirmative Action. The South Carolina Association of Higher Continuing Education presented him with the Outstanding President's Award in 1987. In 1985, Dr. Alexander was selected as Man of the Year by the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce.
He reached the pinnacle of service to the State of South Carolina in May of 2000 when he was bestowed the Order of the Palmetto, the highest designation the governor awards to an individual.
In 2000, Dr. Alexander announced his retirement after 17 years of service. He was named Distinguished Chancellor Emeritus and remains a vital and active part of the Aiken Community. He established the Pauline F. & Joseph C. Alexander Memorial Scholarship, named for his parents, and with his wife founded the Robert & Leslie Alexander Program Endowment, which provides funds to enhance programs, scholarships and learning at the University of South Carolina Aiken.