Carnegie Corporation Honors Higher Ed Leaders Freeman A. Hrabowski III and Eduardo J. Padrón

Grantees in this story

Carnegie Corporation of New York today announced that Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and Eduardo J. Padrón, president of Miami Dade College (MDC), have been awarded the foundation’s Centennial Academic Leadership Award.  The honorees will be recognized on November 10 at a dinner celebrating the foundation’s centennial, to be held at Carnegie Hall. 

The award recognizes individuals who, in addition to fulfilling their administrative and managerial roles with dedication and creativity, have demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to excellence and equity in undergraduate education, curricular innovation, the liberal arts, reform of K-12 education, and the promotion of strong links between their institution and their local communities. 

Carnegie Corporation honors awardees with grants of $500,000 each to be used at their discretion in support of their academic initiatives.  

Hrabowski’s award recognizes his development of a culture of excellence and success in preparing students of all backgrounds to go on to earn Ph.D.’s in science and engineering. He has built on that success to infuse principles of excellence and teaching innovation throughout the university. 

Padrón was selected for innovations that have contributed to a culture of success that has produced impressive results in student access, retention and graduation rates, and overall achievement at a school with a predominantly low-income and minority student population.

“Presidents Hrabowski and Padrón have been powerful voices advocating for a robust undergraduate education that strives for excellence and creates an environment for students—especially low-income, minority and immigrant students—in which success is the norm,” said Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York.  “They have each committed their institution to serving its community and have demonstrated that excellence in leadership is far more than effective management alone.  Presidents Hrabowski and Padrón have proved that presidential leadership, faculty quality, and, most important, a dedication to placing the needs of the students above all else, are the critical elements that distinguish one university from another." 

Freeman A. Hrabowski, III

Since becoming president of UMBC in 1992, Freeman A. Hrabowski III, a mathematician by training, has worked with faculty and staff members, trustees, and others to build a mid-sized public research university that is engaged with the larger community, emphasizes teaching at the undergraduate level, and offers model programs to improve access to and success in higher education. 

Among Hrabowski’s many innovations is the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, which he co-founded with philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff in 1988 to increase diversity among future leaders in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The program has become a national model for preparing undergraduate minority students to go on to earn Ph.D.’s in STEM-related fields.  

From their first semester in the program, Meyerhoff Scholars are engaged in research, often in the labs of eminent scientists, and begin to develop a deeper appreciation of what studying science entails. Program staff members and the students draw on a network of contacts to design summer research internships at UMBC and other institutions nationwide, including such federal agencies as the National Institutes of Health, major corporations, other academic institutions, and research centers like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 

Today, more African-American bachelor’s degree recipients from UMBC go on to complete Ph.D.’s in science and engineering than those from any other predominantly white university in the country. Moreover, UMBC is among the top 10 universities in public policy research productivity; is one of the top two Ph.D. granting universities in the production of information technology degrees at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral levels; ranks third in research citations in the geosciences; and has scholars in the arts and humanities who are published by such prestigious academic presses as Oxford, Princeton, and Harvard. 

Lessons from the Meyerhoff program have informed important innovative changes throughout the curriculum, including course redesigns in chemistry, psychology, and other disciplines, as well as successful efforts to address the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. A number of universities across the county have also replicated the principles of the Meyerhoff program.

Through effective partnerships with faculty and staff members, Hrabowski has infused the ethos of inclusive excellence found in the Meyerhoff program throughout the campus. UMBC sets high expectations for all students, and helps to ensure their success by offering a nurturing and supportive environment with opportunities for mentoring and training, as well as ample academic and career guidance.   

Eduardo J. Padrón

Miami Dade College, with 174,000 students, has the largest undergraduate enrollment of any college or university in the country. As president of the college since 1995, Eduardo J. Padron has consistently demonstrated that open access and excellence in higher education are not mutually exclusive.  Padrón, a Cuban immigrant and graduate of what was then Dade County Junior College, has earned a national reputation as an advocate for underserved populations and innovative teaching. 

The students at MDC, which has an “open door” policy that guarantees admission to any person who has graduated from high school, reflect the area’s urban character and its status as a destination for Latino and Caribbean immigrants: more than half of the students are the first in their families to attend college; 46 percent of students live below the federal poverty guideline; and 74 percent arrive unprepared for college-level work.  Minority students constitute 90 percent of the college’s enrollment.  The average age of students is 26.  About 69 percent work; nearly half work at least 35 hours per week.  English is the native language of only about half of the student body. 

Padrón has complemented MDC’s high standards with high and innovative levels of support aimed at retaining students once they have enrolled and instilling in them the confidence required to believe success is possible.

Padrón believes that increasing the number of low-income students who enter and complete college is one of the most important—and proven—approaches to reducing poverty and increasing economic mobility.  To help students complete school, MDC has teamed with Single Stop USA, an anti-poverty initiative, to establish offices on its campuses staffed with coordinators who work directly with students to identify benefits and services that can help them stay in school, whether it’s help buying groceries and paying rent, filing their taxes, or coaching them on how to manage debt. 

Another novel MDC program, the InterAmerican Campus Project, is designed to offer accelerated general education course content to high-achieving English language learners. It combines enrollment and retention strategies to achieve a 98 percent project completion rate for students admitted to the program. 

Past Winners

Previous recipients of the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award are Henry S. Bienen, president of Northwestern University (2005); Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University (2005); Don M. Randel, president of the University of Chicago (2005); Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of The City University of New York (2007); Robert J. Birgeneau, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley (2008); Nancy Cantor, chancellor and president of Syracuse University (2008);  Leon Botstein, president of Bard College (2009); Scott J. Cowen, president of Tulane University (2009); Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania (2009); and William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland (2009). 

About the Centennial Academic Leadership Award

Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Centennial Academic Leadership Award is more than a signal honor. It is an investment in leadership, building on the foundation's long tradition of developing and recognizing dedication, excellence, innovation, and impact in higher education. In the Carnegie Quarterly of April 1959, published during the presidency of John Gardner, the strength of the Corporation's grants program was described as seeking to be “as responsive as possible to the expressed concerns of college and university leaders” and to “lend itself to the kinds of giving which will strengthen the institution in terms which the president considers necessary.” The award continues a Carnegie Corporation higher education tradition.  

The Corporation solicits nominations from previous winners, as well as from the leaders of national higher education organizations. The nominations are carefully reviewed, with particular scrutiny given to candidates' sustained records of innovation and accomplishment.  Carnegie Corporation does not accept unsolicited nominations or recommendations.