The passion of David Alger
STEVE MAYNARD The News Tribune
A Presbyterian minister in Tacoma warned the Rev. David Alger in 1979 not to take a job here leading a fledgling religious group that helps people in need.
"You'll find it a very difficult place to be," the colleague told Alger.
Tacoma, the friend said, was dominated by conservative churches reluctant to work across denominational lines. Unfazed, Alger saw opportunities: many churches cooperating in a city where he could fulfill Jesus' command to comfort the suffering and voiceless.
Today, after 25 years as executive director of Associated Ministries of Tacoma-Pierce County, the 59-year-old former high school quarterback has earned the community's respect as its most widely known and influential religious leader.
"This place wouldn't be as good a place to live if it wasn't for Dave Alger," said Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. "He helps knit the community together."
When the church and the culture turned away from social problems, Alger embraced them:
• In 1987, when AIDS was misunderstood as a disease that struck only gay men, he helped launch the first ecumenical program in the country on AIDS education &endash; and he helped those living with it.
• In 1988, when blood from drug- and gang-related murders spilled all over the county, he moved Associated Ministries' headquarters into one of the worst sections of the Hilltop.
• Since 1998, he has "reclaimed" more than 100 murder sites through blessing services.
• In 2002, he took a stand unpopular with some churches and spoke against a ballot measure that would have repealed the city's law protecting civil rights for gays and lesbians.
• In the past 18 months, he has helped the city heal and move past Police Chief David Brame's fatal shootings of himself and his wife, Crystal, starting programs to prevent domestic violence.
Now, this son of a salt miner from western New York seeks a different kind of healing as he faces the biggest personal crisis of his life: prostate cancer.
Alger's drive to feed, shelter and improve life for the needy permeates the sacred and the secular of his actions.
An ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church USA, Alger usually wears Dockers and a casual long-sleeved shirt. But he dons his clerical collar when he wants to show that he's representing the religious community.
That's when Ladenburg knows Alger means business.
"Like me, he can be pretty stubborn," Ladenburg said. "Sometimes, that can be aggravating to people."
Some days, Alger bends the ears of Ladenburg and Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma for more housing, food and other social programs.
Other days, he listens with
razor-sharp focus and advises leaders striving to stamp out chronic homelessness. Or he wears his clerical collar, robe and stole, blessing a homicide site by sprinkling water from a fir branch.
"It's not always easy being his friend. He really does push you on things," said state Rep. Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma), executive director of the Pierce County AIDS Foundation.
Politicians court him for the religious community's support. With tenacity and a disarming sense of humor, Alger challenges them to care for people who are hurting.
At the dedication of a housing project in the mid-1990s, then-Tacoma Mayor Harold Moss was frustrated with Alger, who was pushing for more affordable places to live.
Moss leaned toward Alger and asked, "David, when are you going to stop harassing me?"
"Harold," Alger recalled saying, "I'll stop harassing you when Jesus comes again."
Moss laughed. The tension dissolved.
At times, Alger has been at the center of controversy.
He was on a 2001 panel that considered the promotion of assistant police chief David Brame to police chief.
Alger was part of a minority that wanted to hire the deputy chief from Cleveland. Alger said he felt used because he didn't have information about Brame's past, including a rape allegation against him. Brame fatally shot his wife and himself on April 26, 2003.
"I don't feel any responsibility for what happened," Alger said.
But the experience drove him to be part of a police department accountability group.
Baarsma said Alger helped the city recover from the Brame incident. Alger brought the faith community together for a day of prayer after the killings and blessed the Gig Harbor site of the shootings. He continues to push for change, as he did at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
"Don't take the easy way out," Alger said, prodding council members about a citizens report critical of the Brame investigation. "I want to see you take concrete action."
One of Alger's biggest successes is the annual Pierce County Hunger Walk, an event he started in Tacoma in 1981.
About 1,500 walkers strolled through Tacoma last Sunday to raise $200,000 for local food banks and international hunger programs.
"You're doing something very important for Pierce County and the world today," Alger told the crowd at Jefferson Park.
Then, with a cardboard sign, he directed throngs of participants down Proctor Street.
"Hey David," many walkers and runners yelled while passing by.
Last month, 300 people celebrated Alger's quarter-century at Associated Ministries with a banquet. He was given one of Pacific Lutheran University's highest honors, the President's Medal.
Some didn't know that behind his smiles, Alger was vexed by concerns about his health &endash; and mortality.
After a routine physical on Aug. 31, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The good news was that it was caught early and didn't appear to have spread.
"Of course, I'm frightened," Alger said recently. "Scared to death. … If it's not dealt with, it's going to kill you."
He'll have surgery on Oct. 18 to remove his prostate gland.
After hearing the bad news, Alger vented his frustrations on the handball court.
Afterward, while driving his dark green 1997 Toyota Corolla along Union Avenue, something happened.
"All of a sudden I felt this presence in the car," Alger said. "There was no question in my mind what it was. The presence of the divine was with me. It was God speaking and saying to me, 'Everything's going to be OK.' It was also clear to me I wasn't necessarily going to be healed."
The only other time he experienced something similar was as a 20-year-old sophomore at The College of Wooster in Ohio. He passed the chapel where he rarely attended services. He felt that presence for the first time.
"It was saying, 'Now is the time &endash; let's get on with your life.'"
Alger knew at that moment he would go into the ministry.
In Tacoma years later, Alger found a new place to channel his passion for social justice.
"Everything that I do flows
from my faith and my understanding of who Jesus Christ is," he said.
When Alger began at Associated Ministries in 1980, he was one of two full-time staff members working in a narrow room at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church. The annual budget was $58,000.
He built the agency into one with 16 full-time staff members and a $2.6 million budget.
Some of the first problems Alger tackled were refugee resettlement, AIDS, drug dealing and violence.
In 1987, Associated Ministries helped launch the Pierce County AIDS Foundation.
"That was an no-brainer for me," said Alger, pounding his left hand on his office table. "We absolutely needed to be there."
He helped form the Safe Streets Campaign, which sought to drive out local drug-dealing and gangs.
Victim of the World Trade Commission Attack:
David D. Alger, 57, New York, N.Y.: executive vice president and chief financial officer, Fred Alger Management Confirmed dead, World Trade Center, at/in building
Visitors Comments:,
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 05/25/2002 3:02:37 AM
i hope god gives u a special place in heaven cuz ur in a special part of my heart. i didnt know you, but im sure u were a wonderful person.
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 08/29/2002 1:51:19 PM
I am participating in our local program in Tacoma, WA: 9.11 A Day of Memory, Hope and Action. As a part of my contribution, I am making a financial contribution to Associated Ministries and volunteering in a neighborhood clean-up program in the name of David D. Alger as my way of honoring him. There are thousands of us doing similar activities throughout the greater Tacoma area.
Josh Webb
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 09/12/2002 11:59:42 AM
Hello Family and Friends,
I am terribly sorry about the death of David D Alger.
He has gone to a much better place. I will always remember that day for
the rest of my life. Our school in Tennesee, had a memorial service
for all victims. They handed out pictures of the people that died
in the tragic event. We all got a certain person to pray for his or her
families. I got David, i've prayed for all the victims. I am truly sorry
for the tragedy. God bless his family and friends.
Josh Webb
Travis Black
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 09/19/2002 11:37:14 AM
I am sorry for your family member's loss. I really am sorry that you
have to go through the pain that you are going through.
I know how the pain and suffering that youi have to go through becauseI
Josh Hayes
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 09/19/2002 3:11:49 PM
dear friends of David D. Alger
I'm sorry for what happend on 911.I know how you feel because my aunt
died. I just want you to know I'm sorry.
[Jos]h Stacy (? - off the page)
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 08/25/2003 6:37:03 PM
I knew him only through TV but loved his Gatsbyish style - you could tell he was well liked by his intros from the commentators...very classy. There was only one David.
Risha Black
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 09/11/2003 12:05:37 PM
I remember you, David. You will always be a part of me and my life.
Steven P.
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 09/11/2003 4:19:13 PM
Remembering you on this day David...may you be resting in peace.
You were a kind and brillant man.
Thomas Moore
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 10/14/2003 7:36:03 AM
David Alger was one of my mentors and is the reason I started investing. I just found out that he was in the WTC and I am crushed. May God guard over him and his family. Mr. Alger was not just a business man; he was a star and he will be missed. Thank you for all of the advice and tips.
Fiarama Richard
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 04/11/2004 2:52:18 PM
Thank you for this site that you dedicated to those who perished in the horrible attacks in September 11, i can also say am almost one of them cos my only Brother that we are in the same Blood also fall in the victim, and now i dont have anybody by my side, because i was my everything before but now no body again. plz am using this oputunity to plead to this site that they should help me out
Christina Ronnau
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 04/14/2004 8:15:46 AM
I discovered this web site yesterday. I had not known of its existence, but I think often about Mr. Alger. I miss him, and am so sorry that he is gone ...I happened to do a search on his name and found the site. He is with the Lord now.
I worked for David Alger back in the late 80's as a Dictaphone operator when he ran the Research department at the financial firm founded by his older brother, Fred Alger. I shall never forget the time David offered me some overtime, in order to type the manuscript of a childrens' book he had written. It was beautiful. I guess he wrote it for his kids. Not only was he an honorable businessman, he was also a gifted writer, and a very witty, intelligent & funny man, and a great leader. It was truly a privilege to know him, and to work for him.
Will Alger
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 08/01/2004 8:43:18 PM
I went to Ground Zero and I saw David D. Alger on the heroes list. I thought it was weird because my last name is Alger, I never knew about him and the last name Alger isn't a very common last name
If you were related to David D. Alger (wife, brother, sister, etc.)
Please contact me at
Robert Metzger
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 09/11/2004 12:10:44 PM
On this 3rd anniversary of 9/11 I thought about David Alger and found this site. I'd never confirmed until today that he indeed was a victim of 911. I often found his commentaries about our markets to be instructive, due to his great belief in our American ingenuity and optimism. I will continue to encourage my clients to invest wisely in the American dream that we share with Mr. Alger. God Bless him and all those who perished on September 11.
Jessica Faselt
Commenter Email and IP address is in file 09/12/2004 9:03:17 PM
Sorry for this loss. May God be with you.
Inclusion Criteria:
   CONFIRMED DEAD. Includes those who have been confirmed dead by a coroner's office or the Defense Department. It also includes those for whom death certificates have been issued, even if no body has been recovered.
   REPORTED DEAD. Includes those whose deaths have been reported by family, employers, mortuaries, places of worship or by the airlines that listed them as aboard one of the four flights. Includes people for whom memorial services have been held, even if their bodies have not been recovered or positively identified. (Those identified by federal authorities as the hijackers are not included in the database.)
From "Profiles in Grief" of the New York Times
DAVID ALGER: Tales From a Lunch Table
For a generation of up- and-comers in the money world of Lower Manhattan, the scene was deeply familiar: David Alger's lunch table. Nothing fancy about it. Mr. Alger seemed to thrive on cheeseburgers and apple pie, and any nondescript Wall Street coffee shop would do. His stories are what live on, and the lessons embedded within them about the stock market, and about life.
"I can see him chewing apple pie and telling these stories," said Rob Lyon, who worked for Mr. Alger at Fred Alger Management in the 1980's and remained close. One of Mr. Alger's lunch lessons was that big companies cannot possibly grow as fast as little ones, and that problems in a company, or a life, can never fully be solved in one three-month reporting period. You have to look to the horizon, he would tell the young Turks.
Mr. Alger, who was 57, took over operations at Alger Management from his brother, Frederick, in 1995. But by then his impromptu lunch seminars were Wall Street lore, former pupils like Mr. Lyon said. And strangely, all the stories seemed to have the same opening line: "That reminds me of something," he would say.
.Filipino David D. Alger, 57, New York, N.Y. executive vice president and chief financial officer, Fred Alger Management.
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