The longtime president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, who transformed a small school into one of the nation’s top producers of engineers and scientists of color, will retire at the end of this school year.

Since his rise to the presidency in 1992, Freeman A. Hrabowski III has developed a culture in which low- and middle-income minorities can excel in science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — fields. He is one of the nation’s longest-serving university presidents and among the most influential leaders in higher education.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who so powerfully inspires excellence,” said Jay Perman, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, which oversees UMBC and 11 other public institutions. “And that’s exactly what his legacy is — a commitment to inclusive excellence that lives on in UMBC, its students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

Hrabowski’s leadership has helped UMBC more than double its number of annual graduates, from 1,700 to nearly 3,500, officials said. The school has also expanded degree offerings during his tenure, grown the international student population and more than doubled the proportion of students from low-income households.

“The UMBC story is one of excitement about learning and learning how to work with people different from oneself,” Hrabowski said in a statement. “The significance of our success is that we are saying to the country and to young people that you don’t have to be rich to be the very best. Middle class institutions can produce some of the best thinkers in the world.”

After three decades of leadership, Hrabowski has become synonymous with the public university in Catonsville, notably molding the campus into one recognized nationally for its innovation in STEM — particularly for groups who have been historically shut out of those fields. UMBC graduates more Black students who go on to earn PhDs in the natural sciences and engineering than any other college, according to data from the National Science Foundation.

Among those is Kizzmekia Corbett, a 2008 graduate and immunologist who lead the team that developed the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at the National Institutes of Health. She also belonged to the Meyerhoff Scholars Program — founded in 1988 and accelerated during Hrabowski’s tenure — one of the university’s signature efforts to increase diversity in STEM.

“It is simply one word: resources,” Corbett told the university about the program. “It is equaling the playing field for people who have generally been underresourced, and those are communities of color and people from underrepresented minority groups.”

When Hrabowski arrived in 1987 as vice provost, the campus enrolled just 10,000 students, fewer than half of freshmen lived on campus, and the university had less than $10 million in research funding.

Now, the campus invests more than $84 million in research and development. It is also largely residential and enrolls about 14,000 students.