Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee Pronouncer, Dr. Alex J. Cameron, dies at home in Kettering, Ohio

Tue, February 25, 2003 by Paige Kimble

CINCINNATI - Dr. Alex J. Cameron, who for millions of Americans was the voice and face of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, was found dead Monday from apparent natural causes at his apartment in Kettering, Ohio. He was 65.A noted scholar in English language and literature, Cameron was preparing to serve his 23rd consecutive year as the spelling bee's pronouncer. He had returned home to Kettering on Sunday after attending a Spelling Bee word panel meeting that was held in Cincinnati on Friday and Saturday.Montgomery County, Ohio, officials have not determined the exact cause of his death. Funeral arrangements are pending.Cameron, an associate professor of English at the University of Dayton, was a Spelling Bee icon. His easy-going demeanor, his intellectual wit and towering physical presence were a comfort to thousands of young spellers and their families and well known to millions of Americans who have tuned in over the years to the nationally televised ESPN broadcast of the national spelling championship. He was highly regarded, not only for his ability to pronounce difficult words, but also for the rapport he succeeded in establishing with young spellers from all walks of life. "I've known Alex for many years as a speller, as a colleague and most importantly, as a good friend," said Paige Kimble, director of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. "I can't even begin to describe the deep sense of loss that all of us associated with the spelling bee feel. Alex leaves a tremendous void. We will miss his charm, his insights and his camaraderie." As the pronouncer for the spelling bee, Cameron had enunciated more than 18,000 words. Cameron succeeded the late Richard Baker as the spelling bee's pronouncer in 1980 when Baker, a University of Dayton colleague, retired. Cameron had served as associate pronouncer of the spelling bee from 1978 to 1979. "We're in shock," said Brian Coniff, chair of the English department at the University of Dayton. "We can't imagine the university without him."Cameron's death comes just weeks after Spellbound, a documentary about the National Spelling Bee, in which he is featured, was nominated for an academy award. During the two decades he served as the spelling bee's pronouncer, he was featured in news stories by the Associated Press, GQ, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, NBC Nightly News and many other news organizations.Cameron, an associate professor of English, began teaching at the University of Dayton in 1964. He graduated in 1959 with a degree in English from the University of Notre Dame, where he also received a Ph.D. in 1972. From 1962-63 he served as an instructor in English at Notre Dame. During his University of Dayton tenure, he served as chair of the department of English and on dozens of governance bodies and committees, most notably the academic senate, the faculty board, the board of trustees committee on academic policies and programs and the general education committee. In 1994, he received the faculty service award from the College of Arts and Sciences.Dr. Cameron is survived by a sister, Mary, and a brother, John.The Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee is the nation’s largest and longest running educational promotion, administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E. W. Scripps Company in Cincinnati and 243 local sponsors. The majority of local spelling bee sponsors are daily and weekly newspapers.This year’s competition is the 76th spelling bee. The purpose of the National Spelling Bee is to help students improve spelling, increase vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.

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