Late this summer, President Freeman Hrabowski announced that he will be retiring from UMBC at the end of this academic year after a career that has included more than 30 years at UMBC. We sat down to talk about moments of joy he has experienced in his penultimate semester, and why he’s so very excited about the future of UMBC.
UMBC Magazine: I’ve been thinking a lot about what life must have been like for you since you made your big announcement. In the days and weeks that followed, what has brought you joy?
Freeman Hrabowski: Well, it has been this spirit of love that is all around us. You may recall that in one of my opening speeches on campus, right after announcing, I talked about the idea that UMBC is “the house that love built,” which is inspired by the Ronald McDonald house. And that thought has really resonated with people—from alumni to faculty and staff, to our students. People believe in the UMBC way, and that means an emphasis on grit and resilience. It means supporting each other, having compassion, academic excellence, and really being grateful to be a part of such a healthy community. And that’s the part that’s given me such joy.
People from around the country have been writing and saying, “Wow, what is the magic sauce, that secret sauce at UMBC?” The truth is that when you talk to people who work here, they love it. You talk to our alumni, and they’re so proud to be from our institution. So, when they ask, “What is the secret sauce?” I say, “We have really good people here. We care about each other. We love ideas. We love working with people in the communities. We’re proud of our alumni.”
And to see just how supportive people are is just wonderful… and at this past Homecoming taking photos with the children of alumni, I was just surprised by it all. I didn’t think I could ever be surprised, but at Homecoming when we took the big community photo, and you’ve got all those folks on the library steps and they’re all applauding—well, I wasn’t ready for it. I was getting a little emotional. But it was so special. And that’s what I’ve been feeling since announcing.
UMBC Magazine: Thinking ahead, what are you hoping that alumni and our community will be keeping top of mind as we travel into the spring and the transition ahead?
Hrabowski: It is the idea that this is not a story about one person. It is about all of us and the alumni who helped build the foundation; UMBC really belongs to the alumni. And it’s about how proud we are as faculty and staff, administrators, and students to be here at this moment. For all of us, it is about caring about this university, this house that love built.
You know people always say, “What’s going to happen to UMBC?” And I’m saying, “UMBC is going to continue to get better and better and better because we’ve laid a great foundation… People have been so amazingly supportive of me for the past 30 years, and the other five when I was here before that, that everybody knows a new president will be given a chance to thrive and to help the university go to the next level. And she will be fantastic. I’ve been saying that to people putting that idea in the universe. We’ll see. We don’t know who that person will be. There are many people in leadership positions interested in the presidency of UMBC because the university is one of the most talked about and admired institutions in the country, and I leave it in really good shape. I feel so good about that.
And so this transition will be one where we’re shedding light on what’s important, and our shared values… the emphasis on people, loving ideas, the importance of grit, and most important—believing in ourselves. We are UMBC.
Learn more about the Presidential Search Process at president.umbc.edu.
Header image by Marlayna Demond ’11.