The creation of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program was made possible at UMBC in 1988 through a grant from the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Foundation. The nationally-renowned program funded students pursuing doctoral studies in the sciences and engineering with an interest in the advancement of minorities in related fields. Emphasizing mentoring, scholars were encouraged to cooperate and collaborate with their peers and the Meyerhoff staff. Scholars also completed research early on during their time at the university. Since the implementation of the program, U.S. News & World Report has highlighted the Meyerhoff Scholars Program as a successful model for supporting black students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and increasing minority employment and education in these fields. According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges, UMBC is the top university in graduating African American scholars who go on to enroll in MD/PhD programs.
Philanthropists Robert and Jane Meyerhoff were approached by soon-to-be UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski about investing in a program focusing on African-American students in the sciences. The Meyerhoffs agreed and have continued to support the program through scholarship endowment funds, The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Chair in Biochemistry, and the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Science Fund.
Meyerhoff Scholars advance through the program together as part of a closely knit cohort. The graduating class of 1994 was the second cohort to graduate, known as Cohort M2, and included sixteen students representing Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Information Systems, Interdisciplinary Studies, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, and Psychology. Graduates were accepted into Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Duke, Northwestern, and Yale among other top graduate and medical schools.
On April 4-5, 2008, hundreds of alumni, faculty and supporters joined to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program. The gathering centered around a scientific symposium including oral and poster presentations, panel discussions, and video recording booths for alumni to talk about their experiences in the program. Director LaMont Toliver explained the distinguishing qualities of the program: "Over the past 20 years, the program has created strong foundations in a number of areas including but not limited [to]: the sense of family, a culture of high expectations, and environment of positive peer pressure, collaborations with UMBC research faculty that include solid classroom instruction and lab experiences in a variety of areas, and finally, a legacy of excellence that began from the very beginning."