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Doris Alexander: In the Pilot's Seat for Life's Big Adventure

Doris Alexander: In the Pilot's Seat for Life's Big Adventure

Three times a week, you'll find Doris Alexander at the Santa Monica Airport, taking flying lessons in a single-engine Cessna. Other days, you may spot her practicing ballroom dancing and piano, attending the opera, participating in charity events, and hosting friends in her lovely home.

This is just the latest chapter in what Doris calls "a big adventure" -- a life that has spanned two continents, 83 years, and a world war. "Now is my time," she says. "I can concentrate on the people and things that matter."

That includes giving to causes in which she believes. Doris recently established a Life Estate Gift Annuity, which enables her to give her home to The UCLA Foundation today while retaining its use during her lifetime. She receives a current income tax charitable deduction as well as a lifetime annuity. For Doris, knowing that the gift of her home will benefit future generations was the critical factor in her decision.

Born in Stuttgart, Germany, she was a young actress and dancer when she met her husband, Milo "Sascha" Alexander, then a refugee from Czechoslovakia, during World War II. At the war's end, the couple came to the United States -- a journey she likens to "going to the moon." In the mid - 1950s, they founded the Alexander Machinery Company in Culver City, which supplied parts and machines for the oil and gas industry. "For a long time, the company was just the two of us, working round-the-clock. It was exciting."

With the business well established, Doris took a new path in the early 1970s, going back to school to study theater arts. While still in school, she was offered a position as a makeup artist on a feature film. That led to a 15-year career freelancing for various movie studios. Dotting her piano are photographs of her with film and TV stars, including Omar Sharif, Bette Davis, and Shirley Jones.

Her beloved Sascha died three years ago after 56 years of marriage. Both had been avid skiers, but after three hip replacements, Doris has been forced to relinquish her sport of choice. "Flying is a replacement for skiing," she concedes, adding that she likes the hint of danger and the challenge.

She also makes time for travel. She's planning a tour of Maine fishing villages and a return trip to South Africa, where she rode elephants during a 2008 visit. (See photo on page 2).

Her philanthropic interests largely focus on medical research and the arts. However, she has designated her charitable gift annuity to support the highest priority needs as determined by the university. While Doris had no previous ties to UCLA, she's happily forming them now, looking into campus theater events and seminars. "It gives me a good feeling to know that what I leave behind will be used for something good," she says, "and I like knowing that now, while I can enjoy it."


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