Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

African American College President Makes Time Magazine’s ’10 Best’ List

November 23rd, 2009 by Ajuan Mance


UMBC President Freeman Hrabinski giving the 2007 commencement address at Wheaton College, Massachusetts.


Freeman Hrabowski III, President of University of Maryland – Baltimore County, is the only African American to make Time Magazine’s recent list of the nation’s 10 best college and university presidents. This is not the first time that a major news magazine has recognized Hrabowski for his outstanding leadership at UMBC. In 2008 U.S. News & World Report recognized him as one of “America’s Best Leaders.”

Indeed, Hrabowski has a long and distinguished history as a leader. U.S. News & World Report describes his participation in Brimingham’s “Children’s Crusade” civil rights march:

[…] when he saw his friends readying for the “Children’s Crusade” march for civil rights in 1963, “I just had to join in.”

As he got swept up in a mass arrest, Birmingham’s notorious Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor spat on him. The jail guards locked the young freedom marchers in with hardened criminals. Hrabowski remembers spending five terrified days and nights shielding younger kids by reading his Bible aloud and singing songs.

At one point, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led a march of parents to the jail. “We looked out and saw him and our parents,” Hrabowski recalls. “They were singing. And [King said], ‘What you do this day will have an impact on generations as yet unborn.’ ”

King was right. Outrage at the brutality against Birmingham children helped build national pressure for laws banning racial discrimination. That outcome gave Hrabowski a life mission: “The experience taught me that the more we expect of children, the more they can do,” he says.

(follow THIS LINK to read the rest of this U.S. News & World Report article)

Appointed Vice Provost of UMBC in 1987, Dr. Hrabowski became president in 1992. During his 17 years at the helm of this 12,870-student institution, Hrabowski has achieved some striking successes. U.S. News explains:

Hrabowski has turned the 12,300-student school into one of the nation’s biggest producers of technology graduates. The 20-year-old Meyerhoff program alone has graduated more than 600 students in the sciences, 69 of whom have gone on to earn M.D. or doctoral degrees. Overall, 43 percent of the nearly 1,900 diplomas UMBC handed out in June were for math, engineering, or science. And UMBC’s student technology pipeline is growing. The number of white science majors at UMBC has almost doubled, to nearly 1,300, since 1985. The number of African-American UMBC undergraduates majoring in science or engineering has increased sevenfold, to more than 400.

Today, UMBC is one of the leading producers of Black bachelor’s degrees and Ph.D.s in the sciences and engineering, this at an institution that is only 12% Black. In addition, Hrabowski’s non-traditional approach to student life and scholarships have made him a model for innovation in both areas. Consider, for example that he refuses to fund varsity football at his institution, choosing instead to direct precious scholarship dollars to those students with a proven record of both academic and extracurricular achievement. Hrabowski funds generous scholarship for competitive chess players, for example; and when the chess team wins national championships, he holds the kind of lavish on-campus celebrations usually reserved for football and basketball champs.

To read more about the life and leadership of Dr. Freeman Hrabowshi, III, check these links:

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Posted in African Americans, Current Events, Higher Education, race

One Response

  1. Sukhmandir Kaur

    I hope one day we can all look beyond skin color. I mean it’s pretty and all but probably has little to do with achievement other than when someone is up against social barriers it is that much more difficult to accomplish. When I look at the world around me I see such a ddiverse variety of people and cultures coming together. It’s really wonderful to behold.

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