Nationally Recognized Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, Transformative Leader in Higher Education, to Speak at Drexel’s 2022 Commencement

Portrait photo of Freeman Hrabowski

One of the nation’s most influential leaders in higher education, Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, will address the class of 2022 at Drexel’s university-wide commencement ceremony on June 9. In what has become a tradition, Drexel University will return to Citizens Bank Park to celebrate the graduating class in-person. The ceremony will also be live-streamed.

Hrabowski, one of the longest-serving university presidents in the United States, rose to national prominence as he transformed UMBC, a mid-sized research university in the suburbs of Baltimore, into one of the nation’s top producers of engineers and scientists of color. He has announced that he will be retiring at the end of the academic year.

“We are enormously proud of our 2022 graduates and look forward to celebrating their incredible achievements,” said Drexel President John Fry. “I am quite certain that our graduating class will draw inspiration not just from Dr. Hrabowski’s address, but also from his extraordinary life story, his transformational leadership, and his phenomenal success in expanding access to educational excellence for students of any background.”

Hrabowski’s research and publications on science and math education have identified numerous pathways for improving minority participation and performance. 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.

The Meyerhoff Scholars Program, which he co-founded with philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff in 1988, is recognized as a national model for advancing high-achieving students interested in pursuing advanced degrees and research careers in science and engineering and also advocating for underrepresented minorities in these fields.

In 2008, he was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report, which for more than a decade has recognized UMBC as a national leader in academic innovation and undergraduate teaching. In 2011, he received both the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence and the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Academic Leadership Award, recognized by many as the nation’s highest awards among higher education leaders. Also in 2011, he was named one of seven Top American Leaders by The Washington Post and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. In 2022, Hrabowski received the Yale Legend in Leadership Award and was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering for development of a national educational model for students from diverse backgrounds to excel in engineering and science.

Other honors include election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, receiving the prestigious McGraw Prize in Education; the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring; the Columbia University Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service; and the GE African American Forum ICON Lifetime Achievement Award.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama and a child-leader in the Civil Rights Movement, 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.

Hrabowski graduated from Hampton Institute with highest honors in mathematics. He received his MA in mathematics and PhD in higher education administration/statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

More information about Drexel’s commencement will be posted to the Commencement 2022 website as it becomes available.