Like so many of you, I continue to struggle with the tragic events that unfolded in New York on September 11, 2001. Having worked for a summer in the World Trade Center’s north tower, the enormity of the devastation and loss on that day struck close to home. The day carried profound sadness for me for another reason. On September 11, 2001 like so many of you, I lost a friend. On September 11, 2001, I associated the events of that day with a palpable sense of grief because the loss that day carried with it a name: David Alger.
I first met David Alger in February of this year. My father had gone to college with David right here at Harvard some 35 years ago. Although I did not share in the Harvard College experience, I was nonetheless subjected to countless hours of stories from my dad regarding his “Harvard Years.” So I had heard the name David Alger often. February was a time of great stress and anxiety as I was desperate to get into a good MBA program and escape the dot com world. Yes, I will admit this now. Michigan was among the list of MBA programs to which I planned to apply. One day in early February, I got a call from my dad. “Walker, if you are serious about attending Michigan you should really speak with David Alger. He is an old friend and will be a great resource for you if you are lucky enough to get in to the program.” My dad had recently had a meeting with David in New York and amidst the swapping of stories about their children, my dad had told David that I was in the midst of applying to Michigan’s MBA program. “Give him a call,” Dad suggested. “He is anxious to give you a hand.” This is how I came to know David Alger.
Over the next six months, I was fortunate enough to witness the selfless decency of an old family friend. For most, the thought of helping a friend’s son is a painful but necessary favor but not for David Alger. He instantly agreed to write a letter to Michigan on my behalf and then he went a few dozen steps further. He spent a considerable amount of time over a period of six months speaking with me about the decision to go to school in general. David Alger provided a listening and thoughtful ear to me as I attempted to find my way in the world. We spoke of schools, of careers, of goals and of family. As I prepared to leave for business school at the end of the summer, these conversations helped to point me in the right direction. David Alger agreed to help the son of a friend because of the strength of a bond that was born and nurtured here at Harvard. David did not know me well but he knew my dad, and for him that was good enough.
I can’t help but think of David Alger’s kindness towards me in relation to the community building and friendships that are born here on this campus. I lost a valued mentor, Harvard lost an amazingly accomplished graduate, and the world lost one more person who never hesitated to help a friend in need. I hope one day that I can show others the same generosity and care that David Alger showed to me. So David, these open thoughts that I have written really just simply add up to: Thank you. I will always be grateful for your presence in my life.