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The National Academy of Sciences has announced it will present its 2023 Public Welfare Medal to Freeman A. Hrabowski, III for leadership in transforming U.S. science education and increasing cultural diversity within the science workforce. The medal will be presented on April 30 during the Academy’s 160th annual meeting.

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As president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), Hrabowski recast the institution into a top-tier research university and STEM education center. Since his retirement in 2022, Hrabowski has remained engaged in advancing diversity as president emeritus of UMBC.

Hundreds of UMBC graduates have gone on to obtain professorships and other positions at some of the most prestigious institutions. For more than 15 years, UMBC has been ranked the top U.S. producer of Black undergraduates who continue on to receive PhDs in the natural sciences and engineering.

“Freeman Hrabowski’s visionary leadership in broadening diversity and inclusiveness in American science is simply unmatched within higher education,” said Susan Wessler, home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the selection committee for the award in a statement. “As an educator and mentor, he has inspired hundreds to follow in his footsteps and become much-needed forces of change in the U.S. research enterprise.”

Hrabowski joined UMBC as provost in 1987, and before taking the helm as president, he co-founded UMBC’s Meyerhoff Scholars Program with philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff to support diverse students seeking science and engineering degrees and to prepare them for postgraduate studies and leadership positions.

The program has since been emulated by other universities and colleges, including the University of North Carolina, Pennsylvania State University, Howard University, and the University of California at Berkeley and San Diego.

“Freeman Hrabowski has revolutionized science and engineering education, dedicating his career to ensuring that working- and middle-class Americans of all races have the opportunity to become world-class scientists, engineers, and leaders,” said National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt in the press release. “Our entire science ecosystem is stronger because of his efforts, and our nation is reaping the benefits. I am thrilled to present him with our highest honor.”

The National Academy of Sciences was established under a congressional charter in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and — with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine — provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

As the inaugural American Council on Education Centennial Fellow, Hrabowski is focusing on how colleges and universities can ensure that all types of learners can access higher education and earn a degree.

In addition, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute recently launched the Freeman Hrabowski Scholars Program — a $1.5 billion initiative that aims to advance diversity in the sciences.

Hrabowski will also continue developing the next generation of college leaders through his ongoing work with the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents leadership program.

He is also a consultant to the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health and serves on the boards of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, France-Merrick Foundation, T. Rowe Price Group, McCormick & Company, and the Baltimore Equitable Society.

Hrabowski has received the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Academic Leadership Award; the Heinz Award for his contributions “to improving the human condition.” Other awards and honors include the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring; the American Educational Research Association’s Distinguished Public Service Award; Educator of the Year by the World Affairs Council of Washington, D.C.; and the Technology Council of Maryland’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Hrabowski has chaired or served on several National Academies study committees and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the National Academy of Public Administration, and the American Philosophical Society.

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