Leading the Freeman Way

This week Time Magazine named Freeman Hrabowski one of the country’s Ten Best College Presidents.

In its issue on newsstands this Friday, November 13, Freeman is featured in a list that includes presidents from Ohio State University, New York University, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Arizona State University, Tulane University, Middlebury College, Miami Dade College, University of Texas at Brownsville and University of California Oakland.

In language typical of a leader who credits his team and surroundings, Freeman said “This recognition reflects the campus’s success and the high quality of the academic experience here.”  Freeman, as almost everyone in the broader UMBC community refers to him, said “It’s an honor for each of us to be a member of the UMBC community.”  Indeed.

I’ve been on the periphery of UMBC for about 10 years now, both as an adjunct professor and member of UMBC’s Tech Center Board of Advisors.  I had certainly heard of Freeman and his reputation before I became affiliated with the University, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the person matched the legend.  After just a few encounters and listening closely to faculty members and senior members of his immediate leadership team, it became apparent that he was the real deal.  A true leader.  A larger than life figure that brought out the best in people.  A treasure for the state of Maryland and higher education.

Freeman inspires people.  You meet him once and you begin to ask yourself, “how can I contribute.”  An unabashed math and techno-geek, only Freeman could make winning a chess championship sound cool.

Great leaders are found in diverse places.  Our culture tends to celebrate the success of entrepreneurs and titans of industry.  We sometimes forget about leaders in less glamorous settings.  In this case,  Gilbert Cruz and Time Magazine hit the nail on the head.

Congratulations Freeman and UMBC.

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