Basically, few who know Hrabowski are surprised he made TIME’s list.
Jan Houbolt, executive director of the Greater Baltimore Committee’s The LEADERship program, even said calling Hrabowski one of the world’s most influential leaders was shortchanging him.
“It’s actually in the known universe, if you want to expand it,” Houbolt said.
Hrabowski gives the opening presentation to each The LEADERship group, and Houbolt said it wasn’t difficult to pick the university president for the task.
The program leader said he once asked the late Walter Sondheim Jr., a longtime Baltimore civic leader who played a large role in desegregating city schools, who he felt most exemplified heartfelt leadership.
“He said, without a skip or a pause, ‘Oh, it’s Freeman Hrabowski, clearly,'” Houbolt said. “Freeman is a phenomenon.”
Even as accolades have rained down upon the 61-year-old Hrabowski, said he has no plans to leave UMBC, where he’s spent 20 years as president. Houbolt hypothesized that Hrabowski would be among the final three finalists for any open university president position in the country.
But Houbolt said Hrabowski told him there’s no incentive to leave UMBC, the modest-sized university between Catonsville and Arbutus in southwest Baltimore County. Hrabowski, who once described himself growing up as a fat kid who loved math, thought he would be a teacher. He never dreamed of pulling in the six-figure salary of a university president.
“Money is no incentive at all,” Houbolt said. As far as attention and prestige, Houbolt added Hrabowski told him he gets “all of the recognition [he] could ever possibly want at UMBC.”
“Baltimore’s been really blessed to have his presence,” Houbolt said.