Maurice Dorsey

[ Age 75 ] Former principal of Clifton Park, Pimlico junior highs spent 30 years as a teacher and leader in city schools

October 22, 2006|By Gadi Dechter | Gadi Dechter,Sun Reporter

Maurice Snowden Dorsey, the former principal of Clifton Park and Pimlico junior high schools, died of complications from Alzheimer's disease Tuesday at his home in Pikesville. He was 75.

Mr. Dorsey retired in 1986 after a 30-year career in the city's junior high schools that began as a Spanish teacher at Gwynns Falls Junior High School.

"He loved that age level, that very difficult age level," said Delores Alston Dorsey, his wife of 44 years and a retired city high school teacher.

The seventh of nine children, Mr. Dorsey was born in West Baltimore and graduated in 1950 from Frederick Douglass High School. After four years in the Navy, he became the first in his immediate family to enroll in college, attending what is now Morgan State University, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1958. In a college course in Spanish -- his future teaching specialty -- Mr. Dorsey also met his future wife. He later earned a master's degree from Loyola College.

Mr. Dorsey stayed active in education after his retirement, serving for two years as executive director of the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association, and teaching English at an international school in Kawasaki, Japan, during the 1990-1991 school year.

Mrs. Dorsey said her husband was a stickler for order who tolerated "no foolishness" in his classrooms. "When kids had problems, they might at any time find him knocking on their door, to talk with their parents," she said.

One student who gave the Spanish teacher no trouble was future Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, whom Mr. Dorsey taught in the mid-1960s at Gwynns Falls Junior High. "He always said what a fine young fellow he was," Mrs. Dorsey said.

The congressman recalled Mr. Dorsey as an important role model, particularly to black students during the early years of public school integration.

"He was an awesome human being," Mr. Cummings said. "For many young African-American children, and others, to see a man of his stature in the middle school, and to know that he was demanding excellence and had high expectations of all us meant a lot.

"I thank God that our lives eclipsed," Mr. Cummings said.

Mr. Dorsey's daughter, Cheryl Lynn Dorsey of Washington, laughed when reminded of her father's reputation as a disciplinarian. "He was a total pushover," said Cheryl Dorsey, president of the nonprofit Echoing Green Foundation. "I was the only child, and a daughter at that, so I pretty much had him wrapped around my finger."

An avid world traveler who toured China, South America and Morocco, Mr. Dorsey acquired his love of foreign languages and cultures in the Navy, where he piloted a tender boat and was dispatched to seas near Egypt, Cuba and the Persian Gulf, according to his wife.

Mr. Dorsey's favorite mode of travel was by foot, said his family. "He wasn't a big museum guy," said his daughter. "He would walk for hours and hours all day long through a town, to soak up a local culture and the feel."

Despite his peripatetic travels, Mr. Dorsey didn't move around much in Baltimore. After leaving the Navy in 1954, he returned to his parents' West Baltimore home until marrying in 1962. He had lived in the same Pikesville home since 1968.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Loring Byers Funeral Home, 8728 Liberty Road, Randallstown. Burial will be Nov. 27 at Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery in Owings Mills.

In addition to his wife and daughter, survivors include two sisters, Theresa Ford and Joan Ramona Shields, both of Baltimore.

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

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