Alexander M. Tanger, at 94; helped run radio and TV stations

August 28, 2014

By Melissa Hanson

August 27, 2014

Alexander Tanger was an announcer at a radio station in Brooklyn, N.Y., when a news bulletin arrived on Dec. 7, 1941, and he told his listeners about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

He soon traded the studio for the Army and was stationed in Alaska during World War II, but he returned to broadcasting when the war was over.

Rising from a salesman job to becoming a broadcast executive in Boston, Mr. Tanger bought a Rhode Island radio station and went on to help build a chain of television and FM radio stations.

“He was a visionary during his career,” said his grandson Greg Ginsburg of Newton.

“Even in his 90s he wanted the latest version of the iPhone.”

Mr. Tanger, who was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2009, died June 21 in his West Dennis summer home of congestive heart failure. He was 94 and had lived in Newton for about 65 years.

During his career, Mr. Tanger served as senior vice president at WHDH for Channel 5 and the AM and FM stations.

In partnership with General Cinema Corp., where he became a senior vice president and president of its communications division, he helped expand its holdings to include radio stations from Boston to Chicago, Houston, and Miami.

He also bought, and later sold, WHUE AM and FM in Boston, and he was a significant investor in Mariner Limited Partnership, which operated radio stations in Maine. In addition, Mr. Tanger served as chairman of Marlin Broadcasting, which owned stations and the online site

In the broadcast industry, Mr. Tanger “was a real pioneer,” said his son Doug of Brookline.

Alexander M. Tanger grew up in Brooklyn. He enrolled at Brooklyn College in the late 1930s but initially was unable to complete his studies because he could not afford the books, his son said.

Leaving college, Mr. Tanger worked as a runner on Wall Street and took a job at a radio station. After leaving to join the Army, he served in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and rose to the rank of captain.

While in the Army, Mr. Tanger married Brenda Ross in 1942. They had met at the Brooklyn radio station, where a supervisor joked, “Wouldn’t it be funny if you two got married.”

After the war, Mr. Tanger and his wife moved to Brookline before settling in Newton. In a commencement address at Brooklyn College in 2001, he recalled that they went to live with his in-laws because he couldn’t find work in New York.

He landed a sales job at WHDH, where he worked for about 20 years before buying WLKW AM and FM in Rhode Island in 1966. For the next three years, his son said, Mr. Tanger also was a consultant to Israel and made 18 trips there while the country built a TV network.

During the years Mr. Tanger owned the Providence stations and on into the 1980s, he ran radio stations in partnership with General Cinema Corp.

In later years, Mr. Tanger and his wife became involved with philanthropic causes and were benefactors of Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and Cape Cod Hospital.

“They loved helping out hospitals,” said their daughter, Marsha Ginsburg of Newton.

With their growing family, the couple liked to spend time at their summer home on Cape Cod.

Mr. Tanger “was very focused on his family,” his daughter said. “Family to him encompassed a lot of close friends as well.”

Mr. Tanger often took his grandchildren out on a boat, and he built additions on the house as the extended family grew larger.

“Everyone came and went and formed some of their own childhood memories there,” Greg Ginsburg said.

A service has been held for Mr. Tanger, who in addition to his wife, son, daughter, and grandson leaves another son, Woody of Needham; three other grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

After nearly 60 years in broadcasting, Mr. Tanger returned to Brooklyn College at the end of the 1990s to finish his bachelor’s degree in television and radio.

“I always wanted to get the degree from Brooklyn College,” he told the New York Daily News in 2001. “Since I live near Boston, a lot of people said, ‘Why don’t you go to Harvard or one of the schools there?’ I said no, because I thought Brooklyn College was doing a superior job.”

He was a longtime donor to the college, which named Tanger Hillel in his honor.

Brooklyn College offered him an honorary degree, but Mr. Tanger wanted to complete the 40 credits he needed for his bachelor’s degree, and commuted from Boston, sitting in classrooms alongside students who were about 60 years younger.

The college chose Mr. Tanger to be the student-speaker at the 2001 graduation ceremony.

“Three generations of us were there,” his daughter recalled. “It was a pretty amazing day.”

The speech, which is posted on YouTube, was at times emotional and serious.

“I never forgot about my dream of getting a Brooklyn College diploma,” Mr. Tanger said. “I didn’t have to earn this degree in order to add it to my resume, but I chose to.’’

Noting that he had begun college as a part-time evening student, he said that “while most of you have graduated in four years, some others five or six, I guess I’m the only student on the 60-year plan.”

In the 1930s, he added, “I never imagined when I started my freshman year that by graduation day I’d have four grandchildren. They had to come today because after all, I’ve been to all their college graduations.”

Originally published by The Boston Globe