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Freeman A. Hrabowski III

Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient: Doctor of Letters

Freeman Hrabowski
Jay Baker

Rutgers is proud to bestow upon Freeman A. Hrabowski III an honorary doctor of letters degree. Hrabowski, president emeritus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, served as president from 1992 to 2022. His research and publications focus on science and math education, with special emphasis on 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, he was named by President Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. His TED talk highlights the “Four Pillars of College Success in Science.” In 2022, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and was named the inaugural American Council on Education Centennial Fellow. In addition, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute launched the $1.5 billion Freeman Hrabowski Scholars Program to help build a scientific workforce that more fully reflects our increasingly diverse country, and he was named the inaugural Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture Speaker by Harvard University. In 2023, the National Academy of Sciences awarded him the Public Welfare Medal, the academy’s most prestigious award, and inducted him as a member of the academy for his extraordinary use of science for the public good.

In 2008, he was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report. TIME magazine named him one of America’s 10 Best College Presidents in 2009 and one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012. 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. 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 2012, he received the Heinz Award for his contributions to improving the “human condition” and was among the inaugural inductees into the U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions Leadership Hall of Fame. He received the American Council on Education’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2018), was named a recipient of the University of California, Berkeley’s Clark Kerr Award (2019), and was awarded the University of California, San Francisco’s UCSF Medal (2020).

With philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff, he cofounded the Meyerhoff Scholars Program in 1988. The program, recognized as a national model, is open to all high-achieving students committed to pursuing advanced degrees and research careers in science and engineering and advancing underrepresented minorities in STEM. He has authored numerous articles and coauthored five books. His latest book, The Resilient University: How Purpose and Inclusion Drive Success (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2024), written with three colleagues, focuses on how leaders can use the qualities of openness, resilience, courage, passion, and hope in challenging times to drive student success.

Born in 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama, he was a child-leader in the Civil Rights Movement and was featured in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary Four Little Girls. He graduated from Hampton Institute with highest honors in mathematics. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.