Freeman A. Hrabowski III

Freeman Alphonsa Hrabowski III (born August 13, 1950) is an American educator, advocate, and mathematician. In May 1992 he began his term as president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), one of the twelve public universities composing the Maryland university system. Hrabowski has been credited with transforming an undistinguished commuter college into an institution noted for research and innovation.[1] Under his leadership, UMBC has been ranked the #1 Up and Coming University in the US for six consecutive years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014) by U.S. News and World Report magazine.[2]

Freeman Hrabowski
Freeman Hrabowski 2012 Shankbone.JPG
President of University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Assumed office
Preceded byMichael Hooker
Personal details
Freeman Alphonsa Hrabowski III

(1950-08-13) August 13, 1950 (age 70)
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Spouse(s)Jackie Coleman
EducationHampton University (BA)
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (MA, PhD)
WebsiteOfficial website

Hrabowski is the co-author of the books, Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males (1998), Overcoming the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Young Women (2001), and Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM (2015). His research and many publications focus on science and math education, with a special emphasis on minority participation and performance. His leadership, expertise and vision are integral to programs worldwide in science/technology/engineering/mathematics (STEM), and are used by universities, school systems, and community groups around the country.[3] Hrabowski chaired the prestigious National Academies committee that produced the report Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads.[4] In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Hrabowski to Chair of the newly created President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans,[5] and he was also a candidate for Secretary of Education in his administration.[6] He has been called one of America's Best Leaders,[7] one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World,[8] and one of America's 10 Best College Presidents.[9]

In 2011, Hrabowski received the Carnegie Corporation of New York's Academic Leadership Award, one of the highest honors given to an educator. The award included a $500,000 grant, which he has directed to support and promote a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and student success at UMBC.[10]

Early life and educationEdit

Hrabowski was born in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, the only child of his parents, both of whom were educators.[11] His mother was an English teacher who decided to become a math teacher, and she used the young Hrabowski as a guinea pig at home. His father had been a math teacher and then went to work at a steel mill because, as Hrabowski is quoted as saying, "frankly, he could make more money doing that."[failed verification] Frequently asked about the origin of his unusual surname, Hrabowski explains that he is the great-great-grandson of Eaton Hrabowski, a slave owned by and named for slave owner Samuel Hrabowski.[12] In a CBS television interview, Hrabowski recounted that he is the third Freeman Hrabowski; his grandfather was the first Freeman Hrabowski born a free man, as opposed to having to be freed.[13]

When he was 12 years old, in 1963, Hrabowski saw his friends readying for the Children's Crusade march for civil rights. He convinced his parents to let him join in as a youth advocate, but soon into the march he was swept up in a mass arrest. Birmingham's notorious Public Safety Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor spat in his face and arrested him.[14] The jail guards locked even the youngest freedom marchers in with hardened criminals. Hrabowski spent five terrified days and nights shielding other youngsters and comforting them by reading his Bible aloud or singing songs. After being reunited with the adults, Hrabowski remembers Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. telling them, "What you do this day will have an impact on generations as yet unborn." King's words resonated with Hrabowski, and ultimately rang true as the national outrage at the brutality against Birmingham children helped build the pressure for laws banning racial discrimination. That outcome gave Hrabowski a life mission, and he has since been a staunch and tireless campaigner for equality, education, and excellence.

When he was 19 years old, Hrabowski graduated from Hampton Institute with high honors in mathematics. During his matriculation there he spent a year abroad at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he received his M.A. in mathematics and four years later his Ph.D. in higher education administration and statistics. Hrabowski focused his education on math and science in part because he was worried that the American economy would suffer if other countries continued to graduate more technology experts than the United States. He wants to ensure smart, dynamic students of all backgrounds continue to be amongst the graduates from STEM programs.[13][15]

Career at UMBCEdit

UMBC was a relatively young school in a Baltimore suburb when Hrabowski arrived in 1987 as Vice Provost, then Executive Vice President, and President in 1992.[16]

Over two decades as president of UMBC, Hrabowski gained a high public profile.[17] Hrabowski emphasized STEM education, and co-founded the Meyerhoff Scholars, aimed at promoting minority achievement in STEM fields.[17] Under his leadership, "more black students earn bachelor's degrees in science and technology from UMBC than from any other non-historically black university in Maryland, even College Park, which has three times as many students."[17] Hrabowski was an advisor to President Barack Obama on higher education policy, and was appointed by Obama to serve as chair of an advisory council on excellence in African-American education. He received an honorary doctorate from Harvard University in 2010.[17]

Freeman Hrabowski at the opening of the Performing Arts & Humanities Building at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Awards and honorsEdit

Hrabowski has received, among other awards:

  • TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York's Academic Leadership Award
  • Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education (2001)
  • U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring
  • Columbia University Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service
  • Marylander of the Year
  • 18th Annual Heinz Award in the Human Condition category[18]
  • UCSF Medal - 2020 [19]
  • Black History Month 2017 Honoree, Mathematically Gifted & Black[20]


  1. ^ Howard, Christopher B. (November 29, 2011). "On Leadership". The Washington Post.
  2. ^ Reiter, Amy F. (January–February 2004). "Changing the Equations". Illinois Alumni Magazine. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Alumni Association.
  3. ^ Golus, Carrie. "Contemporary Black Biographies: Freeman Hrabowski III". answers.
  4. ^ Policy and Global Affairs. "Committee on Science, Education, and Public Policy". The National Academies.
  5. ^ President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts,
  6. ^ Bowie, Liz (November 10, 2008). "The next U.S. secretary of education". Inside Ed. Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  7. ^ Green, Erica (2012-04-18). "UMBC president named among world's most influential leaders". Baltimore Sun.
  8. ^ Rotherham, Andrew J. (April 18, 2012). "The World's 100 Most Influential People: 2012". Time.
  9. ^ Cruz, Gilbert (November 11, 2009). "Freeman Hrabowski - The Top Ten College Presidents". Time. Retrieved 2009-11-15.
  10. ^ 2011 Carnegie Awards[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ The History Makers, Education. "Biography of Freeman Hrabowski". History Makers Project.
  12. ^ " for Hrabowski".
  13. ^ a b "Hrabowski: An educator focused on math and science". CBS News.
  14. ^ Rotherham, Andrew (April 18, 2012). "Freeman Hrabowski - 2012 TIME 100: The Most Influential People in the World". Time. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  15. ^ Mitchell, Andrea (2010). "Education Nation". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 2003-12-25.
  16. ^ Salter, Chuck (March 31, 2002). "It's Cool To Be Smart". Fast Company.
  17. ^ a b c d Childs Walker, Freeman Hrabowski's UMBC legacy grows as he celebrates 20 years as president, Baltimore Sun (September 1, 2012).
  18. ^ "The Heinz Awards: Freeman Hrabowski". The Heinz Awards. The Heinz Awards. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  19. ^ "UCSF Medal". Office of the Chancellor. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  20. ^ "Freeman Hrabowski". Mathematically Gifted & Black.

External linksEdit