Doris Patz

Musician 'allowed the arts to soar' by helping to build the University of Maryland's arts programs

March 16, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,

Doris Patz, a musician and arts activist who assembled a statewide collection for the University of Maryland, College Park and endowed a scholarship there, died of respiratory failure March 8 at her Pikesville home. She was 96.

"She was the muse who allowed the arts to soar at the University of Maryland," said William E. "Brit" Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland. "When she had an idea and made up her mind to do something, she was unstoppable. She was a remarkable person who worked out of the limelight to make a difference in a lot of lives."

Born Doris Engelman in Pittsburgh, Pa., she exhibited music ability as a child and played the viola and violin. In 1926 she attended the National High School Orchestra Camp in Interlochen, Mich., where band leader and composer John Philip Sousa conducted.

"He stood out, not just because of his talent," Mrs. Patz said in a 2005 Sun interview. "It was his attire and appearance I remember. He conducted in his military uniform."

While in Atlantic City, N.J., she met Baltimore attorney Nathan Patz. They married in 1932. She then played in the Baltimore Women's String Symphony and Gettysburg Symphony orchestras. During World War II, she was a member of the Civil Mobilization Corps.

"We would meet at the Enoch Pratt Library in downtown Baltimore," Mrs. Patz said in 2005. "My job was to place volunteers all over the city wherever they were needed for the war effort."

Dr. Kirwan said he met Mrs. Patz in the early 1980s. During that decade, she helped him and others at the University of Maryland build its music and arts program.

"Through her philanthropy and knowledge of music, she helped us create a strong music program," he said. "During this time, we built a magnificent performing arts center. If you look at one volunteer for catalyst for the arts program at College Park, it would be Doris."

Seeing what she felt were just vacant walls, she contacted scores of Maryland artists and asked that they donate works to the University of Maryland.

"My first response came from Eugene 'Bud' Leake," she said in 2005. "He wrote, 'I doff my hat to you for recognizing Maryland artists. We have always been a second-class citizen in our state.' " He sent a painting with his letter. Works from Herman Maril, Keith Martin, Gladys Goldstein and Amalie Rothschild followed, as did many others.

"Doris became our inspiration - our muse really - for building the arts at the university and, in particular, for building the magnificent Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts," Dr. Kirwan said.

She also used her connections and lobbying skills to have Hidden Waters, the Old Court Road estate of banker Jacob France, donated to the University of Maryland as a chancellor's residence.

"She was the moving force in getting the house willed to the college," former University of Maryland President Dr. John S. Toll said.

His wife, Deborah Toll, who befriended Mrs. Patz, recalled, "Doris never had to be forceful. She did everything on charm. She was industrious. She was busy every minute."

She and her husband established the Regents Scholarship for the Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland. The full academic scholarship is awarded to one student every four years.

A frequent contributor to The Baltimore Sun's letter columns, she was a past state president of the National League of American Penwomen. She was vice president of the Baltimore Music Club and a past board member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Services were held Wednesday.

Survivors include three daughters, Barbara Patz and Tucky P. Ramsey, both of Baltimore, and Dr. Ellen P. Myers of Ardmore, Pa.; nine grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren. Her husband of 66 years died in 1998.

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