Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2012

Freeman Hrabowski

When you think of the top science universities in the U.S., schools like MIT and Caltech may jump to mind. But perhaps the most envied science program in the country is at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. That's where Freeman A. Hrabowski III, 61, has spent 20 years as president turning a humble commuter school into one of the nation's leading sources of African Americans who get Ph.D.s in science and engineering. The college's Meyerhoff Scholars program — which initially targeted black men but is now open to all applicants — creates a highly structured (no phones or Facebook allowed during boot camp) and supportive experience for math and science students, almost all of whom not only graduate but also go on to grad school. Hrabowski, who was jailed at the age of 12 for five days for participating in a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Ala., where Bull Connor spat in his face, finished college at 19 and got his Ph.D. at 24. Now, as an adviser to the National Academies, he's devoted to helping others succeed, in school and beyond.

Rotherham is a co-founder of Bellwether Education and a columnist for TIME Ideas