Floral 05


December 15, 1947 ~ February 21, 2024 (age 76) 76 Years Old


Dr. Marlene (Roberts) Dorsey was born on December 15, 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio and was the daughter of the late James David Roberts and Anna Mae (Macon) Roberts.

At an early age Marlene’s natural talent and love for education and learning was evident, as she was able to earn money tutoring her peers during her grade school years. This was the foundation of a lifelong career in higher education that lasted for more than 40 years. She also served on several executive boards and committees.

Dr. Marlene’s journey in higher education began at Cleveland State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Romance Languages (French & Spanish in which she was fluent) and in Secondary Education in 1970. She then earned a Master of Arts in Romance Languages from Case Western Reserve University in 1975, and her PhD in Higher Education Administration, with a secondary concentration in Counseling in Higher Education at Kent State University in 1980.

Dr. Dorsey began her career at Kent State University as Associate Director of the Upward Bound Program from 1975 to 1981. She was treasured by her colleagues and adored by her Upward Bound Students. It was during this time she met the love of her life, Dr. Francis Dorsey. They were married on December 23, 1982. Shortly after this, Marlene was chosen as one of eleven citizen ambassadors from the United States for the Continuing Education Delegation to Eastern Europe.

Dr. Marlene Dorsey’s legacy includes co-founding the Academic STARS Program at Kent State University; a model summer transition program for incoming African American students, which is still serving undergraduate students today. Marlene was also an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She loved attending events and volunteering with her Sorors. Her next position with the university was Dean of the College of Continuing Studies where she stayed until her retirement. In 1992, she became an Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching, Leadership and Curriculum Studies.

After retirement in February 2008, she returned to consult with Kent State as the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion until December of 2008. From there she joined the Department Administrator for Justice Studies until August 2010. She served in all her roles following the mantra “you can be powerful without shouting.” She was known to enter a room with poised reserve, exuding a level of confidence that effortlessly captivated and commanded respect.

In 2011, Dr. Marlene was appointed to the Robinson Memorial Hospital Board of trustees. Additionally, she was on the Board of Directors for Robinson Health Affiliates, Inc. and the committee for the Robinson Memorial Hospital Foundation Minority Scholarship. Moreover, she was elected Vice President while on the Board of Trustees for the Community Action Council of Portage County and was a member of the planning committee. In 2009 she was elected to the Kent City Board and served as Vice President where she found opportunities to follow her passion of helping youth with their education. During this time, she could be found volunteering at elementary schools reading to the students around the city.

Marlene was also an avid reader and an accomplished writer. She was featured in several publications and co-authored a book called, Achieving Against the Odds: African American Professional Women in Higher Education that can still be purchased on Amazon today. She was quoted in an article written by the Kent Stater in May 1, 1998, about a ‘Race and Racism’ class that she co-organized.  When asked her thoughts about the class she said, “The fundamental question is, “What can I do to improve race relations in my own sphere of influence.” Not only was this a question that she asked of others, but it was what she lived, to be an example by serving and improving her cherished community. She was also known to encourage others with her quote “you have to push against the wind,” which was about opening doors for the people of color against all opposition, but also not letting life’s challenges stop you from pursuing your purpose.

This lifestyle was central to both Dr. Marlene, and the late Dr. Francis Dorsey. They were intentional about attending community events to stay connected to the people whom they loved and cared for throughout Northeast Ohio. They never missed events such as the NAACP prayer breakfast, scholarship brunches, and Kwanza celebrations to name a few. Not only could they be found at community events, but they opened their home to others like the international students that they host every year. Everyone looked forward to attending events at the Dorsey home, including the annual 4th of July cookouts.

While there is no denying her academic and professional accomplishments, Marlene would say her greatest accomplishments were being a devoted wife, a phenomenal mother, and a loving grandmother until her final day. She loved to cook, dance, exercise, read, donate books, and do volunteer work with her home church Spelman AME. She respected and encouraged all contributions of everyone regardless of title or education level, while simultaneously promoting everyone to continue to go further in their career and goals. Marlene would rarely discuss her own accomplishments, but instead talk about the success of her sons and how proud of them she was. She also cherished every moment with her grandchildren. While many people called her a saint, she could best be described as a serene force, with her words sparingly spoken, carrying the weight of a thousand actions.

While surrounded by her beloved children and close friends, Dr. Marlene Dorsey, 76, transitioned amongst the ancestors on February 21, 2024, 4 months after her loving husband, the late Dr. Francis Dorsey. Marlene is survived by her siblings: James (Jimmy) Edward Roberts and Khadijah (Charlene) Roberts; her children: Jonathan Pace (wife, Santia), Jabari Dorsey (wife, Sarah), and Jelani Dorsey (wife, Blair); grandchildren: Cheyenne, Taron, Jonae, Jaila, Aniah, Brooklynn, Nyrobi, and Eniola; and one great-grandchild, Jakari.


In Lieu of flowers, donations for the family may be made to the Drs. Marlene and Francis Dorsey Memorial Fund, managed by the Department of Africana Studies at Kent State University through the link listed below.



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March 8, 2024

5:00 PM to 6:30 PM
AKRON, OH 44306

Celebration of Life
March 9, 2024

11:00 AM
United Methodist Church of Kent
1435 E. Main Street
Kent, OH 44240

Video is available for this event

Interment following funeral service
March 9, 2024

Standing Rock Cemetery- Kent
1361 N. Mantua St
Kent, OH 44240



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