Hayes, Alice Ryerson, 1922-

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Hayes, Alice Ryerson, 1922-

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Notable poet and Ragdale Foundation founder and first president Alice Judson (Ryerson) Hayes, 1922-2006, was the daughter of Clay Judson and the sculptor Sylvia Shaw Judson, 1897-1978. Sylvia in turn was the second of three daughters of architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, 1869-1926, and poet Frances Wells Shaw,1872-1938. Alice spent many summers as a child at her mother's parents' summer place in Lake Forest, Ragdale, designed by Howard Shaw 1897 and subsequently.

Hayes married Ned (Edward L., Jr.) Ryerson in 1941 and raised a family (Susan Moon, Nora Ryerson, Mitchell Ryerson, Francie Shaw) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She earned there a doctorate in education. In 1976, as her mother who had inherited the Shaw family Ragdale house and one-third of the grounds in 1938 prepared to retire to Philadelphia, Alice moved to Ragdale and launched the Ragdale Foundation as an artists' community on the model of Yaddo and McDowell on the east coast. A decade later she donated the house and seven acres of grounds to the City of Lake Forest, with the Ragdale Foundation and its residency programs for artists remaining a tenant. She continued as president until 1992 and on the board of trustees until 1994.

She retained a cabin on adjacent property through her lifetime where she continued to summer with her husband after 1981 Albert Hayes, living with him in Hyde Park winters, eventually at Montgomery Place (1991 on). She also was a summer visitor annually after 1947 at Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard, where in later years she loved entertaining her large family and many grandchildren. Albert Hayes was a Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Chicago.

Alice was a member of the Friends Meeting in Lake Forest, which had been incubated in Sylvia Shaw's former studio cabin, later Alice's summer place.

Since its founding in 1976 and the donation of the Ragdale property to the City in 1986, the Ragdale Foundation has grown into the oldest midwestern artists' community, the fourth oldest nationally, and one of the largest in the region. It has hosted many young writers and artists who have become major figures, including Jane Hamilton, Jackie Michard, Alex Kotlowitz, and Audrey Niffenigger. It normally houses twelve artists and writers at a time, with five writers in the Ragdale house. The house underwent an Historic Property Report recently and is beginning in 2010 a major restoration.

This writer was told in the mid 1990s by former Ragdale Foundation director Michael Wilkerson that the quality of Hayes' poetry was high enough to have made her a major national voice if she had begun earlier in life and had built up a larger body of work. A good collection of her poems is New and Selected Poems, Spoon River Press, 1987. A decade later her Journal of the Lake: Excerpts from a Seventieth Year, Open Books, 1997, was a substantial addition to her body of work. She was a superb teacher of the art of writing poetry, with exercises that made such effort accessible to many. But her work, though represented with a smaller than normal volume of good examples, deserves to be considered a significant contribution. In her work supporting the creativity of others she did so as one who was capable of the best herself, even in the midst of a life filled with other activities.


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