Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, will address the graduating class at the upcoming commencement ceremony, according to a Monday press release.

The great-great-grandson of a Polish-American slave owner and the son of two teachers, Hrabowski became a freedom fighter at the age of 12 in May of 1963. He participated in the Birmingham Children’s Crusade march for civil rights, during which thousands of children and young adults took to the streets in a call to end segregation in their hometown and the South. As a result, Hrabowski was sent to a juvenile detention facility, where he and the other children were "treated like animals." While in the facility, he was visited by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who told him and the other children, “What you do this day will have an impact on children not yet born.”

Dr. King’s words had a great effect on the young Hrabowski, and he has dedicated his career  to fighting for equality through education. He graduated summa cum laude from Hampton College and received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, followed by a master’s degree in mathematics and a doctoral degree in higher-education administration/statistics from the University of Illinois.

Hrabowski’s research focuses on STEM education, with an emphasis on minority participation and performance, according to the press release. He went on to become the vice provost of UMBC in 1987 and was later named as president of the university in 1992, a position he holds to this day. In 2009 Hrabowski was named  one of the 10 best college presidents by Time Magazine, and in 2012, he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

“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,” Liebowitz said in the press release. “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.”

Along with Hrabowski, Brandeis will grant honorary degrees to Chava Alberstein, Jay Ruderman ’88, Shira Ruderman and President of the Association of American Universities  Mary Sue Coleman.

Alberstein is one of Israel’s most prominent singer-songwriters, and her work has shed light on “parallels between her growth as an artist and Israel’s growth as a nation,” per the press release. 

A distinguished biochemist, Coleman was the first woman to be the president of the University of Michigan, which she served as from 2002 to 2014, as well as the first female president of the University of Iowa, from 1995 to 2002.

Philanthropists Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, and Shira Ruderman, its executive director, have focused their work on advocating for equal rights for people with disabilities worldwide, as well as bridging the divide between the American Jewish community and Israeli leaders. 

“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.

Brandeis’ 67th commencement will take place in the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center on May 13.