Drexel Welcomes Convocation Speaker Freeman Hrabowski

It’s that time of the year again. On Oct. 22, Drexel faculty and staff will don their colorful regalia to celebrate the start of a new academic year by observing the time-honored tradition that is convocation. The Main Building Auditorium will again host the annual academic pep rally that will be highlighted by a keynote address from University of Maryland – Baltimore County President and STEM education thought-leader, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to attend Convocation, which is scheduled for an 11 a.m. start in the Main Building Auditorium at 3141 Chestnut Street. A reception in the Great Court will follow. Classes on University City Campus will be cancelled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. so all members of the Drexel community can attend Convocation. The ceremony, which will be webcast on the Convocation website, will feature Provost Mark Greenberg, President John Fry and other speakers who will discuss Drexel’s plans for the year and introduce new faculty members.

This year’s Convocation speaker is Dr. Freeman Hrabowski III, University of Maryland – Baltimore County President and STEM education thought-leader.

Since the first Convocation in 1985, Drexel has brought many inspiring individuals to campus. Occasionally, outstanding members of the Drexel community or local government – like university presidents, former Mayor Ed Rendell and Governor Robert P. Casey – would speak at Convocation, but most ceremonies featured speakers from outside of the Philadelphia area. Oftentimes, Convocation was focused around a theme or key issue, like ethics or diversity, and the external speakers received an honorary degree.

One of the more popular speakers was astrophysicist, professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Sagan, who received an honorary degree from Drexel. He discussed the need for humans to be responsible with the environment and technology in his 1986 Convention speech.

Dr. Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick, the first female U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, addressed the campus community in 1991. The next year’s keynote speaker was activist and entertainer Bill Cosby, who was awarded an honorary degree in pedagogy and discussed the merits of education in Philadelphia. Though he was famous for wearing loud, colorful sweaters on The Cosby Show, Cosby made another fashion statement at Convocation by removing his gown and addressing the crowd while wearing a Drexel t-shirt.

Last year’s speaker was Dr. Cora B. Marrett, Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation. Before that, it was Robert McCracken Peck, senior fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences in 2011, and President John A. Fry spoke at the 2010 Convocation during his first year as President of Drexel University.

This year, Dr. Hrabowski is set to stand in good company with the other notable luminaries who have guided the Drexel community into the new school year. He was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME in 2012. His work includes special emphasis on minority participation and performance, and President Obama named him to chair a new President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans in 2012.

Hrabowski has served as president of UMBC for more than 20 years. He also has advised the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Academies and universities and school systems across the country. Last month, he was one of the 19 American educators, scientists and students interviewed by The New York Times about ways to improve STEM education in the United States.

Hrabowski was a civil rights activist at an early age, arrested at 12 years old at Martin Luther King’s Children’s March in Birmingham, Ala. After graduating from Hampton Institute at age 19 with high honors in mathematics, Hrabowski received his M.A. in mathematics and his Ph.D. in higher education administration/statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by age 24. He has received numerous service and academic honors, including honorary degrees from Harvard University, Princeton University, Duke University, Georgetown University and many more.