In his final months at UMBC, Freeman Hrabowski has been hitting the road visiting alumni and friends in a variety of cities as part of the RetriEVER Grateful Tour. Sharing a moment in his office this March, Hrabowski talked a bit about what the tour and his last semester as president have been like and what excites him about the future of UMBC.
UMBC Magazine: You were just in Annapolis for the first stop of the RetriEVER Grateful Tour last night, with quite a few more stops around the country to come, and you’ve also been sharing the UMBC story with state legislators. What has it been like reconnecting with these folks in your final months as president?
Freeman Hrabowski: It’s been like a special dream. People have been so wonderful. I was seeing people from the Founding Four [the first four years of UMBC graduates], and there were also alumni who are working in state government, including Adrienne Jones [’76, psychology], the speaker of the House of Delegates, and Delegate Mark Chang [’99, psychology], and Senator Charles Sydnor, III [M.P.R. ’00]… and so many other friends and colleagues. And we belonged there. We belonged in Annapolis, telling our story so that people know how UMBC matters in Maryland, and in the country.
UMBC Magazine: You’re also seeing quite a few honors from pretty amazing organizations recently, from your induction into the National Academy of Engineering to the exciting awarding of Carnegie Research 1 status. What a time for all of us!
Hrabowski: It is wonderful, and the point I really want to make is that whenever an award comes to me, it is really for UMBC and the contribution that the university is making to society. It’s really about the body of work of the university. And what it shows is that, as we anticipate the arrival of a wonderful new leader, the people of UMBC know who we are. We know our values. We are so proud of this R1 status. Especially because we have continued to focus on the importance of students, undergrad and grad, and of teaching and learning. And, make no mistake, this new classification speaks volumes about the strength of our research across the disciplines, from the humanities to the sciences.
UMBC Magazine: Can you tell us a little bit about what lies ahead for you? What are you most excited about? Do you have a bucket list?
Hrabowski: I am very excited about working with national agencies, foundations, and universities on those issues of particular interest to me, including academic success of students, of all students, addressing the issue of underrepresentation in STEM, and the importance of enlightened leadership in higher education. And so, I will be working even more closely with Harvard’s leadership programs. I’ll be in that space and working with universities.
So, I don’t have a bucket list. You never know if you’re gonna get a chance to retire—that’s life, right? So you need to just do it. When I leave, you can say ‘He felt so good about his life.’ I have been loved. I have loved deeply, and I love UMBC. So, the bucket list is finished. The cake is baked, and this is about the icing on the cake. This is the time when members of the UMBC community, and our alumni, and our supporters are reflecting on just how far we’ve come in 55 years. And it’s been my honor to have spent 35 of those years with UMBC. I am a blessed man, and that is the truth.
Learn more about the RetriEVER Grateful Tour and upcoming events to celebrate Dr. Hrabowski’s leadership.