UMBC Mourns Passing of Chancellor John W. Dorsey

Published: Aug 6, 2014

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of former Chancellor of UMBC, Dr. John W. Dorsey. President Freeman Hrabowski addressed the UMBC community regarding his passing:

photo via The Baltimore Sun

I know I speak for the entire UMBC community in mourning the death of Dr. John W. Dorsey, the third Chancellor of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, at the age of 78. Chancellor Dorsey died on July 28 at his home in Laurel of respiratory failure.

John was named UMBC’s Chancellor in 1977. He came to UMBC from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he held a number of academic leadership positions during the 1970s, including Vice Chancellor of Administrative Affairs and Acting Chancellor (1974-1975). He served as Chancellor at UMBC until 1986, overseeing nine years in which the university boosted its enrollment and raised its academic profile significantly.

When I heard the news, I thought immediately about his thoughtful and effective approach to leadership. He was always dedicated to advancing the University and spoke to me with such pride about our progress over the years. It’s very clear that UMBC made considerable progress under his strong leadership.

Among Chancellor Dorsey’s key achievements was bringing stability to the University, which experienced a number of growing pains after its founding in 1966. He led a major reorganization of the University’s administration, which paved the way for sustainable growth. UMBC’s enrollment grew steadily over his nine-year tenure and surged past the 6,000 mark in his last year as Chancellor.

His intimate knowledge of Maryland’s university system also allowed UMBC to substantially expand its academic offerings. UMBC added 30 new degree programs during his tenure.

Most important, he always spoke strongly when the University and its mission were threatened. The most memorable example occurred when he took a strong and persuasive stand against a 1981 proposal to convert UMBC into an industrial park. Chancellor Dorsey understood not only that UMBC was a great institution but also that the people of Maryland needed this University. Upon his departure from UMBC in 1986, he worked with John S. Toll, President of the University of Maryland system. Chancellor Dorsey also returned to teaching economics at UMCP and retired from there in 2001.

Chancellor Dorsey is survived by his wife, Jeanne, his daughter and son-in-law, Rachel and Tim Small, and three grandchildren. I encourage you to read the obituary in The Baltimore Sun reflecting on his legacy. Dr. John W. Dorsey will always be a very special part of the history of UMBC.

-Freeman A. Hrabowski, III
President, UMBC

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