When he assumed the president's seat at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus in 1992, Freeman A. Hrabowski III faced a double-barreled challenge sure to have given lesser souls the shakes.
For one, legislators were in the midst of a series of deep state budget cuts brought on by the recession of the early 1990s. The result: Hrabowski and other presidents in the state system had to stir up ideas for new revenue to make up for a 20 percent reduction in state funding. The other quandary facing Hrabowski was a student body that seemed to him largely ill-prepared for the challenges of the emerging global economy.
Today, the 10,000-student campus, thanks largely to Hrabowski's infectious brand of enthusiasm and his unabashed chutzpah for striking up relationships with high-technology businesses in the area, is seen as a "rising star" on the educational radar screen, said John Lippincott, associate vice chancellor for the University of Maryland System.
Today's UMBC students are just as likely on a Friday night to be found in the library or in one of the many bioscience and engineering labs as they are to be seen at a keg bash.
And the university now boasts a gaggle of study and job-placement relationships with regional industries, from leading toolmakers to innovative biotechnology and communications outfits.
"What's been so unusual about Freeman has been how aggressively and successfully he's managed to build business partnerships. He's extremely highly regarded by the regents, chancellor and other university presidents. The guy is just a dynamo," Lippincott said.
As a result of Hrabowski's record of building links to the business community during his six-year tenure, the Greater Baltimore Committee's Technology Council has selected him to receive its "Baltimore's Extraordinary Technology Advocate" award this year.
He'll get the award tonight at GBC's annual TechNite dinner and technology showcase at the Baltimore Convention Center.
"Freeman really has taken on a role of advocate supreme for technology development in our region," said Jane Shaab, executive director of the GBC Technology Council. "When we look around to see who is helping us push technology as an economic growth force in Maryland, Freeman is right there in the lead."
Among the technology-related initiatives that Hrabowski, 48, is credited with helping establish:
Boosting patent protection and commercialization efforts of university-based research. During Hrabowski's tenure, UMBC technology licensing deals jumped to 10 from zero and patent applications jumped to 19 from one.
Broadening internship, faculty research and business training alliances with technology-based firms and agencies in the region. These alliances range from telecommunications giant Bell Atlantic Corp. and toolmaker Danaher Corp. to computer industry innovators Silicon Graphics and Computer Sciences Corp.
The Meyerhoff scholarship program. Originally intended to lure and support talented black students pursuing math or science study, it now is open to all promising math and science students. About 144 program students have graduated from UMBC since it was started in 1988 while Hrabowski was vice provost.
The $12 million purchase and conversion of a former Lockheed Martin Corp. research building near campus into the UMBC Technology Center, an incubator facility for small, emerging high-technology outfits. The project generates needed revenue to help finance UMBC's $179 million budget -- to which the state contributes 28 percent. Student and faculty research and work opportunities also have been created at the center.
A $40 million research park that would lease state-of-the-art R&D; space to young high-technology companies. This risky venture still needs to attract a developer willing to put up the first building, but Freeman says that it eventually will be home to several emerging biotechnology and information technology companies. A part of the plan: establish educational and research relationships with companies locating in the park.
Hrabowski, a former math and statistics professor, says his zeal for striking relationships with corporate America has two key motivations: UMBC's need to generate revenue for its annual budget and Hrabowski's deep belief that his students must be armed with much more than a bookish feel for the needs of industry if they are to successfully compete for top technology jobs.
"If you want financial support from the business community, you need to provide them with something that's perceived as valuable," Hrabowski said.
"Every major research university has partnerships with major businesses. The reason is that the businesses see a benefit in the relationship," Hrabowski said. "We realized that if we wanted the same type of support, we had to provide the business community with well-prepared workers in our students and a skilled faculty willing to collaborate on solving problems. Once we'd done that, businesses began to see us as a partner."
The financial support has begun to follow. The university has garnered more than $27 million in donations and pledges during the past 12 months -- 34 percent from corporate sponsorships -- as part of a drive to raise $50 million by 2002 for scholarships, faculty fellowships, and a new library and equipment. Those contributions include six gifts of $1 million from corporate leaders who are not alumni of UMBC, says John Fritz, a UMBC spokesman.
Hrabowski also holds that striking relationships with local industry would benefit students and faculty educationally.
"Rather than compromise education, these types of relationships build stronger educational programs that meet the needs of the real world," he said.
Hrabowski says the goal he's set for UMBC is to graduate students who are eagerly snapped up by high-tech companies or who are able to get accepted at leading universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, for graduate and doctoral research.
The university, he says, does a better job of that by offering students internships and work-study programs at area businesses and by allowing even undergraduates to work on research projects under way through contracts with private industry.
For example, engineering students worked with M. Anjannapa, associate professor of mechanical engineering, to help Black & Decker Corp. design a masonry drill bit that the company expects to help boost tool division revenue.
"One of the reasons Freeman is so well respected by high-tech firms in the region is that he's constantly telling students and anyone else who will listen that the path to science and technology careers is difficult," said the GBC's Shaab.
"It requires commitment and hard work. That's why so many talented kids see UMBC's programs on the same radar screen as those at the top science schools in the country," she said.
In the end, says Hrabowski, giving students exposure to applying in the workplace what they've learned in the classrooms and labs at UMBC can lead to solving problems, creating new products and services, and perhaps even launching their own company.
"My real hope is that we create what I like to call academic entrepreneurs," the administrator said.
"These are faculty and students who are using what they've learned to think outside the norm -- maybe even start their own business. Our efforts to help Maryland's economy are never better served than when one of our own starts a new business."
Tech Month Calendar
Here are selected events for Tech Month '98, provided by the Greater Baltimore Committee Technology Council.
Reservations are required for each event.
Bioscience forum, 8: 15 a.m., University of Maryland Shady Grove Center. $125. Call 301-788-6000.
E.business solutions: What e.business is about. Speaker Peter J. Tarrant, general manager, e-business Solutions, IBM North America, 5 p.m., Center Club, 100 Light St. Free. Call Maria Crispin at 410-727-2820.
Maryland Excellence Conference workshop and awards luncheon, 8: 15 a.m. to 2: 30 p.m., Martin's West on Belmont Avenue, Woodlawn. $175 for members, $195 for nonmembers, $50 for educators, $50 for luncheon only. Call 301-405-7099.
BioValley/Maryland mission on biotech business opportunities. State of Maryland Office of International Business trade mission to Basel, Switzerland. Focus on biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors. $1,250. Call Mitch McCalmon at 410-787-0689.
Maryland Chamber of Commerce Legislative Conference, includes panel of information technology companies focusing on taxation, regulatory and legal issues relating to Internet and electronic commerce, 8 a.m., Sheraton Hotel, Boardwalk at Ocean City. $495. Call Barbara Wilkins, 410-269-0642.
Technology commercialization program and panel discussion, 7: 30 a.m., University of Maryland, Baltimore County Technology Center, 1000 Hilltop Drive at Wilkens Avenue, Catonsville. $15. Call Maria Crispin at 410-727-2820.
Harvesting, managing and analyzing the worldwide information glut, discussion session, 7: 30 a.m., 6751 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia. Free. Call Debbie Richards at 301-258-5005.
Nonvisual design for Web sites and open house reception, 3 p.m., National Federation of the Blind national headquarters, 1800 Johnson St., by Riverside Park. Call Betsy Zabarowski at 410-539-9314.
Educational Technology in the 21st Century, distance learning network demonstration by the Fillmore Group, 4: 30 p.m., Engineering Center, 11 W. Mount Vernon Place. Free. Call 410-465-6335.
Creating a knowledge management environment, panel discussion, 9 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m., IBM Corp., 100 E. Pratt St.. Free. Call Paula Hoch at 703-824-9622.
Electronic business, seminar on enabling the corporate and start-up entrepreneur, 8 a.m., Villa Julie College, Academic Center, 1525 Greenspring Valley Road. Free. Call Tere Greckle at 410-581-5022.
Smart Buildings seminar, 9 a.m., GBC conference room, 111 S. )) Calvert St. Free. Call Eric Younkin at 410- 568-1818.
Ramping up to Y2K symposium on business-education synergies, 3 p.m, Student Union Building, Towson University, York Road and Burke Avenue. $35, Call Melisa Paye-Mose at 410-830-6376.
How the Internet can help business compete in today's marketplace, 7: 30 a.m. to 9: 30 a.m., GBC conference room, 111 S. Calvert St. Free. Call Maria Crispin at 410-727-2820.
Maryland/Virginia Technology Fast 50 awards breakfast, 7: 30 a.m., Ritz Carlton Hotel, Tysons Corner, Va. $40. Call Brittan Forsythe at 202-887-6074.
Dedication and tour of the new TAP Incubator Building, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Building 387, Technology Drive, University of Maryland, College Park. Free. Call Irene Barbe at 301-314-7805.
VTC Venture Capital Forum, panel discussion and reception, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., B&O; Railroad Museum, 901 W. Pratt St. $30. Call Joy
Brennen at 410-659-4544.
Bridging the gap, a daylong forum on practical aspects of object-oriented technology, 9 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m., University Ballroom, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Drive, Catonsville. $50 preregistration, $75 at the door. Call 410-455-2664.
Pub Date: 9/28/98