University of Delaware
Office of Public Relations
The Messenger
Vol. 5, No. 1/1995
MALS: A student experience

     Enrolled in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS)
Program in southern Delaware, Alice Stevenson's thesis will be an
autobiography from her perspective as an African-American woman
who grew up in Philadelphia in the '30s and '40s.
     William H. Williams, professor in the University Parallel
Program in Georgetown, Del., and southern Delaware coordinator of
the MALS Program, has encouraged Stevenson in this project. His
course on the "African-American Experience" originally attracted
her to the MALS Program.
     "I'm excited about the project," says Stevenson, who has
spent most of her adult life in southern Delaware. "I've already
written about my family, and I hope that my life story, the
choices I had to make and their outcomes will benefit other
     "My parents came from farms in Virginia and moved to
Philadelphia. My mother taught school in Virginia, but was not
qualified to teach in Philadelphia and so she did domestic work.
My father was an entrepreneur selling coal and wood. I was the
youngest of 10 children, and my parents worked hard and were
supportive and loving," she recalls.
     Philadelphia schools were integrated when Stevenson was a
student, and this was a strong influence in her life. "Integrated
schooling was a socialization process for both white and African-
American students," she says. "Many of the teachers were Quakers
and very kind. 'Tolerance' was a word used a great deal. As
younger children, we were a unified class. But, when we reached
high school, there was more of a tendency to gravitate toward
one's own group."
     Later in her life, she met people of both races who had
attended segregated schools. "They were nice people, but I felt
that there was a missing connection and an isolation in their
educational experience," she says.
     After earning her high school diploma in business, Stevenson
found there were few employment opportunities. She worked briefly
as a nurses' aide, then passed a civil service exam to begin a
career with the federal government.
     When Stevenson married her husband, Howard, who is a retired
lab technician from General Foods, she moved to Georgetown for a
short period of time and then to Milton, Del. It was something of
a culture shock after Philadelphia, but was a good place to raise
a family, she recalls. She was a full-time homemaker and mother
to the couple's three children for some years and then resumed
her civil service career at Dover Air Force Base in 1967. At the
same time, she began taking college-level courses on a part-time
basis, ultimately, receiving a degree in accounting from
Wilmington College.
     Stevenson's three children have been an inspiration to her.
"They did very well in school in the Cape Henlopen School
District, and I am grateful to the teachers who encouraged them
to excel. My children's example encouraged me to continue my own
education," she says.
     Now grown, Howard Jr. is an assistant professor of
psychology at the University of Pennsylvania; Bryan is a human
rights lawyer who recently received a prestigious grant from the
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and daughter
Christy Lynn Taylor is a musician who has a successful studio in
Lewes, Del.
     Stevenson retired from her job as budget analyst at the
Dover base hospital in 1988, working as a clerk for the Superior
Court in Georgetown and for the Department of Elections in Dover
before resigning in 1990 because of health problems. But, she
says, she was "addicted to being busy and working" and found an
outlet in the MALS Program.
     "It's been a broadening experience for me personally. There
were gaps in my education, and this was an opportunity to learn
about different subjects, such as history, art history,
philosophy and Native American culture. The courses have not been
easy and the going is rough sometimes, but I am getting a lot
from the MALS Program," she says.
                                           -Sue Swyers Moncure