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Hats off to Cora!

hat do you do with a house full of hats? For Cora Shep Williams ’25, the answer was obvious—give them a new home. In fact, Williams was sure that the best new home for her hats would be the theatre department of her alma mater.

Williams donated approximately 60–70 hats—almost her entire collection—to the University. The chapeaus, representing different styles from the ’20s to the ’80s, will give an authentic finishing touch to the costumes and period pieces of future Rowan productions.

For Williams, each hat represents a different chapter in her life. “They’re like a history of me,” said Williams. “Back in the ’20s and ’30s, people would wear a different hat with every outfit and always for important occasions. Wherever you went, you wore a hat.”
Many of the hats Williams collected over the years came from a hat shop in Vineland. Every Saturday while her children were taking their music lessons, she would spend her time browsing through the hundreds of hats on display. Of course, every now and then, she would find one that had to join her wardrobe.

Williams was in one of the first classes to graduate and she still has many fond memories of riding the steam train every day to school from Salem. One of her fondest memories of the school was attending the Christmas Pageant in the Bunce Hall auditorium. She was awe-struck by the women in elegant red gowns on stage strumming Christmas carols on harps. “For a country girl, that was something special,” said Williams.

from summer ’97

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