The American Council on Education will present the award — which is not given every year — to Hrabowski at its annual meeting next week.
Council President Ted Mitchell said Hrabowski was one of the nation’s most accomplished campus leaders, “one who has made an indelible mark on his institution and the entire higher education community.”
In a statement, Mitchell called the university a “powerhouse engine of social mobility and academic excellence, particularly in the area of expanding the number of minority students pursuing degrees in the fields of science and technology.”
Other higher education leaders who have received the award include California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and former Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons.
Hrabowski has propelled UMBC from a small, regional college 25 years ago to an institution known for its excellence in math and science, as well as for the high numbers of students of color who go on to earn doctorates and medical degrees.
In speaking at the UMBC graduation in 2016, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said that Hrabowski had made the university into “a shining example of innovation in STEM education — and a premier pathway for students from all economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds to achieve doctoral degrees in medicine, science and technology.”
“The Meyerhoff Scholars Program alone is a ladder that has lifted more than 900 minority and low-income graduates to advanced degrees in math, science and medicine,” she said.
Hrabowski co-founded the Meyerhoff Scholars Program in 1988 with philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff. The program is open to high-achieving students interested in pursuing advanced research in science and engineering.
In accepting the award, Hrabowski will give a talk at the Monday lunch on the evolution of higher education and its role in building American society.
The award is the latest of Hrabowski’s accomplishments. He has been named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report. He chaired the National Academies’ committee that produced a 2011 report on expanding minority participation in science and technology. In 2012, then-President Barack Obama made him chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
Hrabowski’s most recent book is “Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement.”
“I am honored to accept this award on behalf of the UMBC community,” Hrabowski said in an email. “This achievement represents the work of so many colleagues here, people who have given their careers to serving students.”
Born in 1950 in Birmingham, Ala., Hrabowski graduated from Hampton Institute with highest honors in mathematics. He received his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.