UMBC President = Top Notch

First of all, allow us to offer a warm congratulations to Mr. Hrabowski.  What an honor to stand out among so many.

From Kevin Rector,Arbutus Times

Whenever an achievement is conferred upon the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the school’s faculty and students are always quick to give credit to Freeman Hrabowski, the university’s popular president.

On Thursday, when Hrabowski was named one of the nation’s “10 Best College Presidents” by Time magazine, he turned the tables.

The award “is about recognition for the work that all of us are doing,” he said.

“It represents the contributions of faculty and staff over almost five decades now,” he said. “It’s about the students.”

The feeling is mutual, according to Alan Kreizenbeck, chair of the school’s theater department and director of its Linehan Artist Scholarship Program.

“He creates a sort of sense of camaraderie, that we’re all working for something together, and I think that really makes UMBC a much warmer, more pleasant place to work,” he said.

When the school was named the nation’s top “up-and-coming” university by U.S. News & World Report magazine in August, spreading the credit made sense — and Hrabowski did.

But in this instance of receiving an individual honor? He still spreads credit.

“The UMBC culture focuses on nurturing talent, and there’s something exciting about being on a campus where people believe in each other and take great pride in the achievements of others,” Hrabowski said.

“It’s the synergy that develops from that collaboration across campus that is bringing such national vitality to Catonsville, to UMBC.

“I get so much support from the residents of the Catonsville and Arbutus area, and the broader Baltimore area, and the alumni and alumni families and …”

But one wonders how it feels to go from a 12-year-old boy fighting for civil rights in Alabama — a popular point in Hrabowski’s history cited in both his university profile and in Time’s brief story on him — to one of 10 university and college presidents honored for their achievements by a magazine like Time?

“You do go back to your childhood,” Hrabowski said.

Then he chuckled, seemingly to buy time to think of new ways to redirect the attention.

“My first thought always is, ‘I wish my parents were alive,’ and yet I know they’re smiling,” he said.

His parents, Freeman Sr. and Maggie Hrabowski, were both educators, he said.

“I think about the support I get from my wife and son” — Jackie and Eric — “and from my colleagues and students on campus and from all the supporters of UMBC and …”

And off he went again. So demure.

Really, this award is all his, and it’s not his first.

Last year, Hrabowski was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report.

In 1999, he was named “Marylander of the Year” by the Baltimore Sun.

There have been plenty of other awards and honorary diplomas and board positions since he took over as president of UMBC in 1992. His success in getting minority students into science and engineering fields, his innovative approach to pulling UMBC into the 21st century, his charm on the job, are often noted.

This most recent honor, part of Time’s package on university presidents spearheaded by Time editor-at-large David Von Drehle, cited Hrabowksi’s success in “striving to channel minorities toward grad school.”

The selection process for the “10 Best” list was relatively subjective. Time simply “looked for presidents who are deeply engaged with their communities and today’s challenges,” Von Drehle said in a statement.

“These presidents are the opposite of the ivory tower stereotype; they are arguably the most important unelected leaders in their communities.”

According to Del. James Malone, a Democrat who represents District 12A that includes Arbutus and Catonsville, that assessment fits Hrabowski perfectly.

“I can tell you I’ve been with him in elementary schools, in the community,” Malone said.

“He’s there talking to the kids, talking to teachers, talking about different issues. A lot of people don’t know he does that,” Malone said.

“Any time the man walks in the room, you feel the electricity in the room,” Malone said.

“And it doesn’t matter how young or old the person he’s talking to is, he can always get his point across.”

According to Yasmin Karimian, UMBC’s student government association president, Hrabowski’s latest honor was one that was “absolutely well-deserved” by a man who is “well-loved” by the student body.

“I can’t tell you how humbling it is to have someone who you know could be at an Ivy League school really sticking with us, and instead bringing us to an Ivy League level,” Karimian said.

Shortly after hearing of Hrabowski’s honor on Thursday morning, Karimian said she happened to be walking past the president’s office on campus when she noticed him inside, talking to a group of students.

“I was like, ‘Shouldn’t you be out and about, doing TV interviews?’ ” Karimian said.

Still, seeing Hrabowski listening closely to students didn’t really surprise her, she said.

“Whenever I call, he’s able to meet with me. Even if it’s just for a half-hour, he’s always willing to do that,” she said.

“He’s an open book, which is really cool for me, seeing someone who, in my opinion, is one of the most accomplished human beings, always willing to share his journey.”

On a day-to-day basis, that journey takes Hrabowski into various different aspects of university life. In Time’s short piece on him, Hrabowski stressed the diversity of that life, saying that while UMBC is strong in the sciences, it also has thriving arts programs.

According to Kreizenbeck, Hrabowski is a big part of that arts success as well.

Kreizenbeck said he was surprised back in the early 1990s, when he noticed Hrabowski, the school’s new president, at one of the school’s theater productions.

Now, Kreizenbeck said, he knows better.

“I think I’ve seen him at every theater production since,” he said.

“He brings people to productions, he attends them, he seems very interested in the arts, and that doesn’t always happen with university presidents,” he said.

According to Hrabowski, it “takes a village to raise a university.”

But according to many in that village, the credit rightfully goes to its chief.

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