Freeman A. Hrabowski III to deliver 2018 Commencement address

The president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County will join four other distinguished individuals in receiving honorary degrees from Brandeis

From left to right: Freeman Hrabowski III, Shira Ruderman, Jay Ruderman, Mary Sue Coleman and Chava Alberstein will receive honorary degrees at Brandeis University's 67th Commencement on May 13 2018

From left to right: Brandeis University's honorary degree recipients for 2018 are Commencement speaker Freeman Hrabowski III, Shira Ruderman, Jay Ruderman, Mary Sue Coleman and Chava Alberstein

Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, a renowned researcher in science and math education, and a pioneer in higher education, will deliver the address at Brandeis University’s 67th Commencement on Sunday, May 13. He will join four other distinguished individuals in receiving honorary degrees from Brandeis at its Commencement ceremony in the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center.

“President Hrabowski showed tremendous courage as a youngster in the civil rights movement and, as an accomplished educational leader, has dedicated his career to ensuring that students of color get equal access to STEM education,” said Brandeis President Ron Liebowitz. “He has earned enormous respect and admiration for his dynamic leadership on social mobility and other issues in higher education. I look forward to the insight and vision he will deliver in his Commencement address.”

In May 1963, 12-year-old Hrabowski, the great-great-grandson of a Polish-American slave owner, became a freedom fighter. He convinced his parents to let him join the Children’s Crusade march for civil rights in his hometown, Birmingham, Alabama. Fifty-five years later, he continues his fight for equity and opportunity for all as president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

During the Children’s Crusade march, Hrabowski and other young protesters were arrested and jailed. The children spent five days in juvenile detention, where they were “treated like animals,” Hrabowski remembers. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who visited the youngsters in detention, told them, “What you do this day will have an impact on children not yet born.”

Hrabowski never forgot King’s words. The son of two teachers, he believed in education’s power to overcome oppression and discrimination. After receiving a bachelor’s in mathematics at Hampton Institute, graduating with highest honors, he earned an MA in mathematics and a PhD in higher-education administration/statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on science and math education, with a special emphasis on minority participation and performance in the STEM disciplines (sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics).

He joined UMBC as vice provost in 1987, then became the school’s president in 1992. Time magazine named him one of America’s 10 Best College Presidents in 2009. He made Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list in 2012.

Brandeis will confer honorary degrees on Hrabowski, Israeli singer-songwriter Chava Alberstein, Association of American Universities President Mary Sue Coleman, and philanthropists Jay Ruderman ’88 and Shira Ruderman.

“All our outstanding honorary degree recipients have broken new ground in their respective fields, and have generously shared their remarkable talents and leadership with the wider world,” Liebowitz said. “Chava Alberstein has been called ‘the voice of Israel.’ Mary Sue Coleman was the first woman president at the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa, and now leads the Association of American Universities, helping major research universities play a vital role in innovation, discovery and keeping our nation internationally competitive. Jay and Shira Ruderman have set a high standard with their courageous and cutting-edge work on inclusion for people with disabilities and U.S.-Israel relations. Together, these honorary degree recipients are an inspiration to the class of 2018 and to all of us, and our community looks forward to honoring them at Commencement.”

  • Chava Alberstein is a living legend, one of Israel’s most popular singer-songwriters, whose five-decade career is still going strong. She has been dubbed “the voice of Israel.” In fact, her passionate engagement with the world has caused many to see parallels between her growth as an artist and Israel’s growth as a nation. Singing in Hebrew, English and Yiddish, she has released more than 70 albums since 1967.
  • Mary Sue Coleman is the president of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a highly selective organization of 62 U.S. and Canadian higher-education institutions. Before taking the helm at AAU in 2016, Coleman served as president at two flagship state universities: the University of Michigan, from 2002-14, and the University of Iowa, from 1995-2002. She was the first woman to lead both schools. Before she became a high-profile administrator, Coleman was a distinguished biochemist.
  • Jay Ruderman ’88 has focused his life’s work on two of his greatest passions: advocating for the inclusion of people with disabilities worldwide and educating Israeli leaders on the American Jewish community. As president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, he has led the foundation to become a leader in inclusion and disability rights advocacy both in the U.S. and in Israel. Ruderman’s emphasis on philanthropy has been instrumental in the foundation’s sponsoring programs around the world, using social-media campaigns to encourage the inclusion of people with disabilities and creating popular White Papers on such topics as the criminalization of children with non-apparent disabilities.
  • Shira Ruderman is a professional philanthropist and social activist. She serves as the executive director of the Ruderman Family Foundation, a private family foundation that invests in three primary areas of focus: advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout our society, strengthening the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community, and modeling the practice of strategic philanthropy worldwide.

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