Obituary: Ardon Alger
Artist, teacher, activist, adventurer
Ardon Alger was born on April 17, 1946, in Whittier, California. His interest in photography was apparent by high school, where he became the photo editor of the yearbook. He went on to major in Asian studies at Chapman University in Orange, California. There he explored a fascination with Buddhism and the art of India, Japan, and Tibet. While at Chapman, he entered a program called World Campus Afloat. He spent an entire semester visiting international ports on a ship, an experience that sparked a lifelong interest in travel. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he went on to earn his MFA at Claremont Graduate University.
In 1981, Ardon married social justice attorney Nancy Mintie. An activist himself, he used his photography to put human faces on the destitute clients his wife represented at her organizations Uncommon Good and the Inner City Law Center. He also volunteered his photographic services for many other organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, the Alliance for Survival, and the Los Angeles Catholic Worker. Nine years after they married, daughter Michelle Alger-Mintie, was born, and their family was complete.
He spent his professional life as an educator and an artist. During a five-decade career as a photography professor at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, he shared his knowledge and artistry with thousands of community college students, an experience his students describe as “transformative.” While at Chaffey, he also became an advocate for faculty rights during an unprecedented 18-year tenure as faculty senate president.
As an academic, he spent the majority of each year in a classroom. But in the summers, he traveled, visiting every continent except Antarctica during his lifetime. Even the relentless onslaught of Parkinson’s in his later years did not dampen his passion to explore the world. In 2019, he began a trip that seemed impossible with his advancing disease. Since his days as an Asian studies student at Chapman, he had dreamed of visiting Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, heartlands of Buddhist culture. He not only made the transoceanic journey successfully, he made it all the way up to the base camp of Mt. Everest, hiking much of the way. But the true pinnacle of the journey was the Tiger’s Nest, a working monastery perched high on a mountain in Bhutan. He hiked two miles up a near vertical cliff and climbed another 700 stone steps to reach the monastery despite his physical challenges.
His wife Nancy describes his life as “a beautiful life, a mission, and a vocation.”
His legacy can be viewed at the memorial website ardonalgercelebrationoflife.com.