Jane Alexander (born October 28, 1939) is an American actress, author, and former director of the National Endowment for the Arts. Although perhaps best known for playing the female lead in The Great White Hope on both stage and screen, Alexander has played a wide array of roles in both theater and film, and has committed herself to a variety of charitable causes.
Alexander was born Jane Quigley in Boston, Massachusetts, daughter of Ruth Elizabeth (née Pearson), a nurse, and Thomas B. Quigley, an orthopedic surgeon. She graduated from Beaver Country Day School, an all-girls' school in Chestnut Hill outside of Boston, where she discovered her love of acting.
Encouraged by her father to go to college before embarking on an acting career, Alexander attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, where she concentrated on theater but also studied mathematics with an eye toward computer programming, in the event that she failed as an actress. Alexander spent her junior year studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where she participated in the Edinburgh University Dramatic Society. The experience, together with apparently good reviews of her performances, solidified her determination to continue acting.