Rev. Dorris Dow Alcott
Rev. Dorris Dow Alcott (Baltimore Sun)

The Rev. Dorris D. Alcott, a retired Unitarian Universalist minister who had been director of religious education at Towson Unitarian Universalist Church, died April 3 of heart failure at Oak Crest Village retirement community.

The former longtime Timonium resident was 91.

"Dorris was ordained at a time when there were not many women Unitarian Universalist ministers," said the Rev. Clare Petersberger, pastor of Towson Unitarian Universalist Church. "She was a trailblazer. She was a pioneer."

The daughter of a factory worker and a homemaker, Dorris Dow was born and raised in Winthrop, Maine, where she graduated from high school.

In 1938, she married Ernest F. Alcott, who was descended from Amos Bronson Alcott, the noted philosopher and American Transcendentalist, and his daughter, Louisa May Alcott, who wrote "Little Women."

With the outbreak of World War II, Mrs. Alcott and her husband, who was an electrician, went to work at the Glenn L. Martin Co. plant in Middle River. She joined the engineering department in 1942, where she was the first and only woman, family members said.

The couple, who lived on 39th Street before later moving to Baynesville, settled in Timonium in 1950.

In 1955, Mrs. Alcott took a job in the placement office at the Johns Hopkins University, where she worked with Ph.D.s and in the extensive recruiting programs for liberal arts, engineering and the sciences.

When she left Hopkins a decade later, she had risen to assistant director of the placement bureau.

Mrs. Alcott's pathway to the ministry began years earlier when growing up in Maine. Even though she was a Methodist, she attended services at the local Roman Catholic and Congregationalist churches, and was a camper at a Christian Science-sponsored summer camp.

Later in life, she became an active member of numerous ecumenical groups and was active in religious education.

Mrs. Alcott began her college education in 1976 and earned a bachelor's degree in religious education in 1980 from Goddard College, and took additional religious courses at Harvard University and graduated from Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.

She was ordained a Unitarian Universalist minister at Towson Unitarian Universalist Church, where she was director of religious education from 1983 to 1985.

From 1986 to 1995, she was a consultant to the Unitarian Universalist Association's Joseph Priestly District in Wilmington, Del.

She was a member of the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Harford County in Churchville.

"Dorris was a public intellectual, writer and social reformer in that she met with women of Judaism, Islam, and Christian denominations. Her beautiful white ordination robe was made with love and care by a group of Catholic Sisters in Towson," JoAnn Macdonald, a longtime friend, wrote in a tribute for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Harford County members' newsletter.

After Ms. Petersberger became pastor of Towson Unitarian Universalist, Mrs. Alcott readily offered her assistance.

"She'd volunteer and would do anything she could. That was her spirit. She also handled a lot of weddings for nonmembers," said Ms. Petersberger.

She retired in 2008 but continued to serve as a guest pastor and officiated at weddings, funerals and memorial services.

An experienced world traveler, Mrs. Alcott had visited all of the continents, and in 1993, she joined an expedition that traveled to Antarctica.

"She was invited to sail on the Marco Polo to the continent," wrote Ms. Macdonald in an earlier profile of church members. "At the last minute, just at boarding, she was asked to be the minister of the ship for 300 people."

A memorial service for Mrs. Alcott will be held at 11 a.m. May 11 at Towson Unitarian Universalist Church, 1710 Dulaney Valley Road.

Surviving are two sons, Bronson E. Alcott of Columbia and Colin C. Alcott of Albuquerque, N.M.; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 1989.