Alfred was educated in parochial school and went on to Bryn College.
Alfred served in the Army tank corps in the World War II, and after that, he entered Brooklyn College where he got a Bachelor in 1948. In 1985, he got an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, Brooklyn College, and Master of Arts at Harvard University in 1949.
Also, William got a Doctor of Philosophy at Harvard University in 1954, as well as an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters at the University of San Diego in 1991.
In 1980, William was named Abbott Lawrence Lowell Professor of the Humanities, a position he held until his retirement in 1991. He was also a longtime tutor in Kirkland House. In addition to his plays, he was the author of a book of poems, The Annunciation Rosary, and a translation of Beowulf.
Even after his retirement, Alfred continued to work with one undergraduate per year. He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Quotes from others about the person
"William Alfred was my best teacher, ever." - Jones
"Alfred was the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine profiles, some of which captured his zest for the places he lived and the people he knew."
Alfred enjoyed long friendships with a number of accomplished actors, and with writers such as Gertrude Stein, Archibald MacLeish, Robert Lowell, and Seamus Heaney.