Building Philanthropy for a Better Florida

Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski Will Be the Featured Speaker at Gulf Coast Community Foundation Event

February 21, 2019

Gulf Coast Community Foundation will welcome renowned educator and activist Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III as the keynote speaker for its Better Together luncheon on March 8 at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. Named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report and one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by TIME Magazine, the long-serving president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), will discuss opportunity and hope through educational access, community support, and hard work. Reservations for the $75 event, which includes lunch and valet parking, can be made online at

Under Hrabowski’s dynamic leadership since 1992, UMBC has become a powerhouse in higher education with a national reputation for research and teaching. His own research and publications focus on science and math education, with special emphasis on minority participation and performance. Hrabowski has earned accolades for his successful commitment to helping students from all backgrounds advance and excel in the STEM fields. The New York Times wrote that “Freeman Hrabowski has probably done more to encourage interest in science and math among minority and low-income students than any other educator.”

Hrabowski chaired the National Academies’ committee that produced the 2011 report Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. He was named by President Barack Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. With philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff, Hrabowski cofounded the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at UMBC, a national model that focuses on increasing diversity among future leaders in science and engineering.

A child leader himself in the Civil Rights Movement, Hrabowski spent five days in jail as a 12-year-old for participating in the Children’s Crusade of 1963 organized by Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham, Alabama. He was featured prominently in Spike Lee’s Oscar-nominated documentary 4 Little Girls, about the racially motivated 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Hrabowski’s 2015 book, Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement, describes the events and experiences that shaped him as an educator and leader. His talk in Sarasota will touch on his perspectives about inclusive excellence in education that developed through the frame of his own personal story.

“Dr. Hrabowski’s life and work are all about hope and opportunity through inclusion, imagination, high standards, and mutual support,” said Gulf Coast Community Foundation President|CEO Mark Pritchett. “As Gulf Coast prepares to mark 25 years of bold and proactive philanthropy in our region, we think his messages of innovation, grit, and collaboration can help inspire our community to achieve new possibilities in the next 25 years.”

Since 2004, Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s “Better Together” series has welcomed nationally recognized speakers to the region to discuss important civic issues and pitch big ideas for community collaboration. Last year’s luncheon featured Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman, who discussed civility and engaged citizenship in divisive times. The prior year, historian David McCullough participated in a conversation about leadership, innovation, and finding common ground for the common good.