Freeman A. Hrabowski III is a rare bird in American higher education. The president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County is a black mathematician and statistician who reads 19th-century European novels, takes piano lessons, quotes black poet Langston Hughes and tutors a middle-school student from the inner city.
He wasn't yet 40 in 1987 when he moved from Coppin State College to UMBC, and now the University of Maryland Board of Regents has dropped the "acting" from his title and made Dr. Hrabowski, at 42, the first African-American to head a predominantly white college campus in the Baltimore area and one of only five blacks in the nation to head predominantly white research universities.
When Dr. Hrabowski was named acting president last September, friends and associates began lobbying immediately for his ascension to the "permanent" presidency. And for good reason.
He worked closely with former president Michael Hooker to improve the academic performance of UMBC's students. He helped turn it into a catalyst for technological development in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. He turned down several prestigious jobs in higher education to stay at UMBC, where he founded the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program for blacks gifted in sciences and math. With Dr. Hrabowski's inspiration and scholarship funds from the Meyerhoff family and other sources, UMBC has shown that young blacks are perfectly capable of succeeding in science and mathematics, fields where they are sorely needed.
The University of Maryland has not always distinguished itself in presidential searches. It is good to see the university rewarding one of its own for a job well done.