Alexander Nowell took his B.A. in 1536 and was elected a Fellow of Brasenose in 1545, although he held the post in plurality with others. He was Master of Westminster School in 1543 and Prebendary of Westminster Abbey in 1551. He lived in exile during the reign of Queen Mary I, returning under Elizabeth I. He was made Dean of St. Paul's in 1560 and Canon of Windsor in 1594.
In 1595 he was elected Principal of Brasenose, holding the post for just three months. He was a great benefactor to Brasenose, leaving his Library, founding scholarships and persuading Queen Elizabeth I also to endow the College.
His interest in fishing is recorded by Izaak Walton in The Compleat Angler, who says that he spent a tenth of his time fishing, giving the fish to the poor living near the rivers where they were caught. He is also credited with the accidental invention of bottled beer.
Several portraits of Alexander Nowell are held in various collections around the UK. This includes one portrait held by Brasenose.