Hrabowski is the co-author of the books, Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males (1998), and Overcoming the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Young Women (2001). 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 world-wide in science/technology/engineering/mathematics (STEM), and are used by universities, school systems, and community groups around the country. Hrabowski chaired the prestigious National Academies’ committee that produced the report Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Hrabowski to Chair of the newly created President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.; and he was also a candidate for Secretary of Education in his administration. He has been called one of America’s Best Leaders, one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, and one of America’s 10 Best College Presidents.
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.
Early Life and EducationHrabowski was born in 1950 in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, the only child of busy, hard-working parents, both of whom were educators. 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." Frequently asked about the origin of his unusual surname, Hrabowski explains that he is the great-great-grandson of Eaton Hrabowski, a Polish-American "slave master who lived in rural Alabama”, and his wife Rebecca McCord. 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.
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 he was incarcerated for 5 days. 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 the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King 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.
CareerUMBC was a relatively young school in a Baltimore suburb when Hrabowski arrived in 1987 as Vice Provost, then Executive Vice President, and finally President in 1992. From the very beginning he had big plans to turn the mid-sized, unremarkable campus into a place where "it is cool to be smart." It seems Hrabowski's civil rights and administration experiences, his doctoral studies, and his enthusiastic advocacy for education led him seamlessly to UMBC’s presidency.
Within his first two years at UMBC, he had raised enough money to set up the comprehensive tutoring and financial aid programs of the Meyerhoff Scholars. Initially designed to help smart black males become scientists and engineers, the program he co-founded with Robert Meyerhoff quickly expanded to include students of all races and both genders, "who are interested in the advancement of minorities in the sciences and related fields." The Meyerhoff program has since become a national model for colleges and universities everywhere.
National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and the National Academies. Hrabowski is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.
Hrabowski holds over 20 honorary degrees, including those from Harvard University, Duke University, the University of Illinois, Gallaudet University the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Binghamton University, Princeton University, the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, Haverford College, Harvey Mudd College, and Goucher College. Hrabowski is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and Sigma Pi Phi fraternity. He serves on the boards of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, France-Merrick Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation (Chair), The Urban Institute, McCormick & Company, and the Baltimore Equitable Society. He has served on the boards of the Constellation Energy Group, Mercantile Safe Deposit & Trust Company, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the Maryland Humanities Council (member and Chair). He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.
Leadership and InnovationHrabowski is a respected voice in the discussion on innovation in science and engineering, who strives to ensure America's readiness in the arena of global competiviness. Under his dynamic leadership, UMBC has become a powerhouse in higher education and has gained a national reputation as one of the nation’s premier universities. The University honored the 20th anniversary of Hrabowski's presidency as hundreds of supporters and friends, faculty and staff, students and alums gathered for a celebration of his leadership and innovation.
The outpouring of support from people across the state and nation recognizes the tremendous contributions the entire UMBC community has made to the social fabric of the region, to Maryland’s economy, and to public education nationwide. The enthusiasm is palpable for the model UMBC has created for excellence in teaching across the disciplines under President Hrabowski's administration. His work continues with the launch of The Hrabowski Fund for Innovation in honor of his anniversary and his many contributions to the university. UMBC has established the fund to permanently endow the initiatives launched with support of the Carnegie grant the president received in 2011. The Hrabowski Fund for Innovation will enable the President’s Office to invest in faculty, staff, and student initiatives such as course design and redesign; development of unique classroom learning environments that support active learning, team-based learning, and entrepreneurial skill development; lab-and-project-based capstone courses; faculty fellowships; and peer-learning initiatives. This fund will sustain and drive UMBC’s culture of innovation.
Quotes by Freeman Hrabowski
- “It's hard work that makes the difference. I don't care how smart you are or how smart you think you are. Smart simply means you're ready to learn.”
- "The more we expect from children, the more they can do."
- "I guarantee the people who study are going to be successful. Nothing can replace hard work."
- “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they form your character. Watch your character because it shapes your destiny.”
- "Success is never final.".
Awards and HonorsPresident Hrabowski has received numerous awards recognizing his prowess in leadership, education, innovation, science, and engineering, some of which are listed below:
- TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence
- Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Academic Leadership Award
- Top American Leaders by The Washington Post and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership.
- McGraw Prize in Education
- U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring
- Columbia University Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service
- GE African American Forum ICON Lifetime Achievement Award
- Marylander of the Year
- Heinz Award in the Human Condition category
- Fast Company magazine’s first Fast 50 Champions of Innovation in Business and Technology
- Technology Council of Maryland’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Inaugural inductee into the STEM Solutions Leadership Hall of Fame.
- William D. Carey Award, American Association for the Advancement of Science’s named a
- Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) by the BEYA STEM Global Competitiveness Conference
- Educator of the Year by the World Affairs Council of Washington, DC
Selected Media AppearancesAs president of UMBC, Hrabowski is a frequent feature in various media venues such as:
- President Hrabowski Discusses Workforce Competitiveness on NBC News’ Education Nation (10/8/13)
- “UMBC Carving a Singular Niche in Cyber, STEM Education” – Q&A in the Baltimore Business Journal (9/27/13)
- “Ideas for Improving Science Education” in the NY Times (9/2/13)
- “Oral Histories: Freeman Hrabowski,” C-Span’s American History TV
- President Hrabowski Discusses the Importance of a Liberal Arts Education on NPR’s Tell Me More (6/6/12)
- Five universities that really are up-and-comers in the Washington Post (3/21/12)
- Andrea Mitchell Reports, MSNBC (1/27/12)
- “Freeman Hrabowski on Job Creation” on WBAL (12/9/11)
- News Coverage from White House Meeting on Higher Education (12/5/11)
- Talk of the Nation (12/5/11)
- 60 Minutes (11/13/11)
- WBAL Editorial on President Hrabowski and Academic Leadership
- President Hrabowski in Diverse Issues in Higher Education (pdf) (11/13/11)
- President Hrabowski in the Chronicle of Higher Education (7/11)
- President Hrabowski, and Anthony Johnson and Elaine Lalanne of CASPR, in Physics Today(3/11)
- President Hrabowski on Midday with Dan Rodericks, WYPR (12/9/10)
- President Freeman Hrabowski and Richard Forno, Cybersecurity programs, in the Gazette of Politics and Business (11/5/10)
- President Freeman Hrabowski on C-SPAN: The College Board Forum on College Completion (10/28/10)
- President Hrabowski in the Chronicle of Higher Education (10/10/10)
- President Freeman Hrabowski in Diverse Issues in Higher Ed (10/1/1)
- President Freeman Hrabowski on C-SPAN: The College Board Forum on College Completion (10/28/10) (Archive not available)
- President Freeman Hrabowski on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports (10/1/10)
- President Hrabowski on WYPR’s Maryland Morning (9/28/10)
- President Freeman Hrabowski on NPR’s Tell Me More (9/15/10)
- President Freeman Hrabowski in Black Enterprise (8/24/10)
- President Freeman Hrabowski in U.S. News and World Report (pdf) (8/10)*
- President Hrabowski in U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology Magazine(Fall/Winter 2009)
- President Hrabowski on the Today Show (9/09)
- President Hrabowski on PBS “Charlie Rose” Show (6/7/06)
- President Hrabowski Interviewed by “Kids of America” (3/14/05)
- President Hrabowski on “The Today Show” (8/02)
- Hrabowski discusses changes to the SAT on PBS’ “Newshour with Jim Lehrer (video) (7/02) (video not available)