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Freeman A. Hrabowski III, higher education leader

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Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president emeritus of University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), is a dynamic and visionary higher education leader. Dr. Hrabowski served as president at UMBC from 1992 to 2022, expanding college access for students from all backgrounds and transforming UMBC into a national leader.

An educator, author, and mathematician, he is also known for his advocacy for science and math education, particularly for minority students. He chaired the National Academies’ committee that produced the 2011 report, "Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads." In 2012, President Barack Obama named him chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans and his 2013 TED talk highlights the “Four Pillars of College Success in Science.”

Named one of the "100 Most influential People in the World" and one of America’s “10 Best College Presidents” by Time, Dr. Hrabowski is the recipient of numerous honors and recognitions. In 2022, Dr. Hrabowski was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and he was named the inaugural ACE Centennial Fellow from the American Council on Education. The National Academy of Sciences awarded him the Public Welfare Medal, the academy’s most prestigious award, in April 2023 and inducted him as a member of the academy for his extraordinary use of science for the public good. He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

He co-founded the Meyerhoff Scholars Program with philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff in 1988, recognized as a national model for advancing high-achieving students interested in pursuing advanced degrees and research careers in science and engineering, and advocating for underrepresented minorities in these fields. In addition, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute committed up to $1.5 billion for the Freeman Hrabowski Scholars Program in 2022 to help build a scientific workforce that more fully reflects our increasingly diverse country.

Dr. Hrabowski has authored numerous articles and co-authored five books, "Beating the Odds and Overcoming the Odds" (Oxford University Press), focusing on parenting and high-achieving African American males and females in science; "Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement" (Beacon Press), describing the events and experiences that played a central role in his development as an educator and leader; "The Empowered University: Shared Leadership, Culture Change, and Academic Success" (Johns Hopkins University Press), examining how university communities support academic success by cultivating an empowering institutional culture; and "The Resilient University: How Purpose and Inclusion Drive Success" (Johns Hopkins University Press), focusing on how leaders can use the qualities of openness, resilience, courage, passion and hope in challenging times to drive student success.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, and a child-leader in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Hrabowski was prominently featured in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary, "Four Little Girls," on the racially motivated bombing in 1963 of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

Dr. Hrabowski graduated from Hampton Institute with highest honors in Mathematics. He received his M.A. in Mathematics and Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration/Statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Higher education leader Freeman A. Hrabowski III is the 2024 undergraduate Commencement speaker.

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