Hrabowski named keynote speaker for commencement ceremony

East Carolina University will celebrate the graduation of more than 4,500 Pirates along with their friends and families at 10 a.m. May 5 in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president emeritus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), has been named the keynote speaker for the spring commencement ceremony.

“Commencement is one of the most rewarding days in the life of a university,” said Chancellor Philip Rogers. “I am so proud of these learners — soon to be graduates — and what they’ve accomplished at ECU. I look forward to the message Dr. Hrabowski will share with them and to following along to see the impact these Pirates will have on the world around them.”

Hrabowski, who served as president of UMBC from 1992-2022, focused his research and publications on science and math education, with emphasis on minority participation and performance. A leader in the Civil Rights Movement as a youth, Hrabowski was prominently featured in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary, “Four Little Girls,” on the racially motivated bombing in 1963 of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

Born in 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama, Hrabowski graduated from Hampton Institute with highest honors in mathematics. He received his master’s degree in mathematics and a doctorate  in higher education administration/statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Hrabowski chaired the National Academies committee that produced the 2011 report, “Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads.” He was named in 2012 by President Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. His 2013 TED talk highlights the “Four Pillars of College Success in Science.” In 2022, Hrabowski was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and he was also named the inaugural ACE Centennial Fellow, to be served upon his retirement from UMBC.

In addition, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute launched the Freeman Hrabowski Scholars Program ($1.5 billion) to help build a scientific workforce that more fully reflects our increasingly diverse country. In April, he received the National Academy of Sciences’ highest award, the Public Welfare Medal, for his outstanding leadership in transforming U.S. science education and increasing cultural diversity within the science workforce. Among his other recognitions and honors are the 2012 Heinz Award for his contributions to improving the human condition and the American Council on Education’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2018).

Commencement attendees will also hear from Rogers, the faculty chair, the chair of the Board of Trustees, a representative of the UNC System Board of Governors and the Student Government Association president. For those who cannot attend in person, the event will be livestreamed; a link will be posted on the commencement website on the morning of May 5.

Recognition ceremonies for individual colleges and departments will be on Friday and Saturday, May 5-6 at various locations on campus. Visit the commencement website for details.

GradBash 2023, an annual event celebrating spring commencement participants and their families, will be May 4 from 5-9 p.m. in the north parking lot of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The family-friendly event is open to the public and will include food trucks, yard games and live music.


East Carolina University News Services
Howard House, 1001 E. Fifth Street
Greenville, NC 27858
Phone: 252-328-6481

Contact: ECU News Services, 252-328-6481,

Available photo

Freeman A. Hrabowski III