In the mid-1940s, Alice Skellenger trod the boards at the UW School of Drama. During a production of Stage Door, she met Lieutenant Ralph Hays, who proposed marriage in 1947. During this era, it was not uncommon for women to abandon their schooling in order to support the post-World War II effort, so — without picking up her diploma —Alice Hays rushed off to meet her new husband where he was stationed in occupied Japan.
“She really believes in education, and all four of her kids have graduate degrees,” said her daughter, Katrina Hays. “It always bothered her that she didn’t get her undergraduate degree.”
The younger Hays decided to look into the situation. She contacted the UW and was told that records that far back would take a while to access. Then when the records were found, she was told that her mother had accumulated more than enough credits to graduate.
“I wasn’t very surprised,” said Katrina, 41. “Mom thought she needed to take two more P.E. classes in order to graduate, but we kept telling her that P.E. probably wasn’t a requirement for an undergrad drama degree any longer.”
The family brought Alice Hays, 81, to Seattle from California, where she now lives. Also in attendance were her husband Ralph and 14 other family members. School of Drama Executive Director Sarah Nash Gates presented Hays with her diploma at a small ceremony in Hutchinson Hall, and then led the group in a tour of the Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theatre.
“Maybe now I’ll get my masters in English lit,” said an emotional Hays, “Shakespeare, probably.”