Many considered John Dorsey to be “a quiet administrator who [worked] mostly behind the scenes,” as the Baltimore Sun once said of UMBC’s chancellor from 1977 to 1985. Dorsey was a native Marylander born and raised in Washington County. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Maryland and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. Dorsey returned to College Park and rose quickly through the faculty ranks, eventually serving as vice-chancellor of administrative affairs from 1970 to 1977, until Dorsey was selected to lead UMBC in 1977. Seeking to boost recruitment, he built up the Admissions department and sought to expand academic programs to attract new students. Expansion of the graduate programs was also a priority, and degrees in Information Systems Management, Molecular Biology, Computer Science, and a School of Engineering were added.
During Dorsey’s nine years of leadership, he focused on restructuring administration and academics while enhancing the university’s profile. SAT scores of incoming freshmen increased by nearly 100 points, and the student body increased from 5,200 to more than 8,150. The annual budget also expanded to $46.2 million from just $18.6 million. In 1986, Dorsey stepped down as UMBC’s chancellor and took a position as special assistant to University of Maryland President John S. Toll. He later returned to teaching economics and retired in 2001. John Dorsey passed on July 24, 2014 at his home in Laurel, MD.