William Alfred (1922-1999), a Brooklyn College graduate, was a professor, playwright and poet. After graduating from Brooklyn College, Alfred attended Harvard University where he earned his Master's in English and a Ph.D. in English Literature. He became a professor at Harvard where he remained the rest of his life –teaching, writing, and mentoring students.
A medieval scholar (his class on Beowulf was legendary), Alfred taught English Literature, drama, poetry, and screenwriting. His home was open to students, protégés and friends. He developed close relationships with colleagues that include Elizabeth Bishop, Seamus Heaney, Mason Hammond, Robert Lowell and Archibald MacLeish. But, he also enjoyed friends outside of his coterie at Harvard and corresponded with Christopher Durang, Lillian Hellman, Lillian Ross and Gertrude Stein.
As a playwright he wrote extensively about his Irish-American roots which played a significant role in his plays, from Hogan's Goat and Cry For Us All to The Curse of an Aching Heart.
In 1993, the Harvard Alumni Association awarded William Alfred the Harvard Medal for "faithful and distinguished service to the university." Alfred was addressed as the "beloved bard from Brooklyn, kindly counselor, and professor of early English literature, one who introduced generations of students to the timeless theater of the heart and poetry of the soul."