Dorothy McIlvain Scott, philanthropist

She spent her life quietly giving away millions of dollars to local institutions including the BMA

(Baltimore Sun )
November 24, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Dorothy McIlvain Scott, a lifelong Baltimore philanthropist whose largesse has benefited cultural, medical, religious and educational institutions, died in her sleep of unknown causes Tuesday at her home in the Brightwood retirement community in Lutherville.

Miss Scott was 99.

"Dorothy Scott is the kind of friend every art museum wishes it had. She was a benefactor, and from the collecting and financial point of view, helped transform the Baltimore Museum of Art from a regional to national cultural destination," said Doreen Bolger, the museum's director.

"Her $10 million donation is such a legacy not just for the BMA but also the city so we can remain vibrant," said Ms. Bolger.

Miss Scott, the daughter of businessman Thomas Quincy Scott and Jane Elizabeth McIlvain Scott, was born in Baltimore and raised in the 4500 block of Roland Ave.

She was a 1930 graduate of Roland Park Country School, and at her father's request, after graduating from high school, took several business courses.

The basis of the family fortune came from Miss Scott's uncle, Alexander McIlvain, who had been president of the Columbia Paper Bag Co. on East Fort Avenue in Locust Point, which held patents on the fold on the bottom of a paper bag and the notch at the top.

When Mr. McIlvain died in 1936, he left an estate, according to a Baltimore Sun story at the time, that was estimated at more than $1.2 million; the benefactors were Miss Scott and her mother.

Miss Scott's voluntarism and lifelong interest in nursing began during World War I, when the 5-year-old donned a Red Cross uniform and accompanied her mother, who was in charge of Red Cross volunteers at Fort McHenry.

In a 2008 interview with the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Miss Scott recalled walking around the barracks, visiting wounded soldiers.

"The men were so glad to see a child," she said. "So many missed their children they had left at home."

During World War II, Miss Scott began volunteering as a nurse's aide at Johns Hopkins Hospital, helping to relieve overworked nurses.

When wartime gasoline rationing made getting to the hospital difficult, she began walking from her home in the Warrington Apartments on North Charles Street, where she lived with her widowed mother, to Union Memorial Hospital, where she assisted both nurses and patients.

During her 27 years as a Red Cross nurse's aide, Miss Scott accumulated more than 36,000 volunteer hours.

"One of her unknowing passions was nursing, and she was very proud of it," said Stiles T. Colwill, an interior designer and close friend who owns Stiles Colwill Interiors in Lutherville.

"There were hundreds of nursing students at Union Memorial whose tuition was paid quietly by Dorothy Scott," he said.

He said that Miss Scott eschewed publicity, preferring to remain in the background.

"Dorothy believed your name appeared in the newspaper twice: when you were born and when you died," he said.

"She enjoyed what she did in giving and helping people and institutions. She did it for the sheer joy of giving. No one will ever know what Dorothy Scott did around the city anonymously."

Miss Scott endowed the Dorothy McIlvain Scholarship Fund for nursing students who were taking courses at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Anna Baetjer Scholarship in honor of a lifelong friend.

The many cultural, educational, medical and religious institutions that benefited from her financial generosity and voluntarism include the Walters Art Museum, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Opera Company, Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, and St. John's-Huntingdon Episcopal Church.

Her lifelong affection for the BMA began in her childhood when she began regularly visiting the museum.

Miss Scott and her mother began collecting American furniture in the 1940s, and by the early 1990s had given the BMA's American Wing more than 52 pieces, including a Boston secretary with a hand-carved wooden eagle with an olive branch, and a New York sideboard with the original bottles in it.

"She became a knowledgeable collector with a good eye," said William Voss Elder III, the BMA's retired curator of American decorative arts.

"Her donation filled in many gaps in our collection, particularly the New England collection," said Mr. Elder.

In 2007, Miss Scott pledged $10 million to the BMA.

"We dedicated a wing to Dorothy and the day we did it, she wasn't terribly comfortable in the spotlight because she was incredibly modest. I told her it was time that she get credit for what she'd done," recalled Mr. Colwill, former chairman of the museum's board of trustees. "What she had done with the endowment was very forward-thinking."

"She could be considered in the next generation of notable donors after Claribel and Etta Cone, Mary Frick Jacobs and Saidie A. May," said Ms. Bolger. "What she has done is a transformative legacy."

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