Valerie Sheares Ashby Historically Becomes First Black Female President Of University Of Maryland

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Valerie Ashby chemistry faculty dean of the college of arts and sciences

Valerie Sheares Ashby is a chemist and former Dean of Trinity College of Arts and Science at Duke University. As of this April, it has been announced and confirmed that she will be assuming the position of president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

This veteran educator will simultaneously be making history as both the first woman and the first black woman to hold this title and position. Conveniently enough, she will be acquiring this position from the former president and long-time companion, Freeman Hrabowski, as he has announced his retirement. They became friends over a decade ago upon Ashby’s visit to the campus. This visit was in pursuit of grasping their Meyerhof Scholars’ program. “I met Freeman there, and from that moment on, we’ve been connected. He was a great mentor, such an inspiring figure for me, and he looked at me on that first visit, and he said, ‘You’re going to be a president,’” Ashby recalls.

As the incoming sixth president of the university, Ashby is excited to take on the new mission and expand the positive trajectory of success for the campus. “There’s no such thing as following Freeman Hrabowski. You know you do the role as best as you can. I’ve been the first and only many times as a woman. The first person of color. The first woman person of color. I am accustomed to only and first, as it’s the nature of the world in which I live,” says Ashby.

Ashby is positioned to officially transition into the newest UMBC president this upcoming August 1, 2022.