Big Ten Conference celebrates 100th anniversary of Big Ten Medal of Honor

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Big Ten, the nation’s oldest collegiate conference, commemorates the 100th anniversary of a unique tradition – the Big Ten Medal of Honor. The conference’s most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. As part of the celebration, the conference is launching a national campaign to pay tribute to the rich tradition established in 1915 and showcase the benefits of the student-athlete experience across its campuses.

Awarded to one male and female student-athlete from the graduating class of each member institution, the Big Ten Medal of Honor recognizes the educational emphasis placed on athletics. The Big Ten Medal of Honor places equal importance on academics and athletics and pre-dates many of the biggest national awards that focus entirely on athletics, including the Heisman Trophy and Naismith Award.

Over the past century, more than 1,300 student-athletes from Big Ten universities have earned this distinction. These individuals have translated their campus experience as student-athletes into success in all walks of life including medicine, science, politics, business and sports.

“The Big Ten Medal of Honor fulfills our promise and commitment to broad-based programs that provide students-athletes the opportunity to earn a degree from a top-tier university and compete at the highest levels athletically,” said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. “In the coming months, we look forward to celebrating these individuals who embody the student-athlete experience and demonstrate excellence in both academics and athletics while preparing for success later in life.”

Since 1896, the Big Ten has provided opportunities for students to earn a first-rate education. Ten member institutions rank in the top 31 of all public universities, and the Big Ten leads all conferences with more than 1,500 Academic All-Americans.  Big Ten Medal of Honor winners embody this scholastic tradition and represent continued success following their education.

As part of the Big Ten Medal of Honor’s historic anniversary, the conference is launching a 100-day campaign to help announce this year’s honorees and celebrate the prominent winners of the past 99 years. The integrated effort, which begins this week and extends through June 18, includes profiling notable winners and stories each day on social channels and the conference website. Big Ten on-campus celebrations will feature past award recipients, recognition ceremonies and promotion of the award campus-wide.

The Best of the Best

Out of the more than 8,200 student-athletes at the 12 Big Ten institutions, only 24 are recognized each year with the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Prominent Big Ten Medal of Honor winners have made significant contributions in fields as varied as medicine, science and business since graduating from a Big Ten university.

Penn State's most recent winners were John Urschel and Petra Januskova in 2013. Nittany Lions who have won the Big Ten Medal of Honor since Penn State began conference play in 1991-92 are:

1992 Gregory B. Guarton, lacrosse / Michele R. Robinson, volleyball

1993 Vitali Nazlymov, fencing / Jenny Kretchmar, basketball

1994 Craig Fayak, football / Helen Holloway, basketball

1995 John Amaechi, basketball / Jill Pearsall, field hockey

1996 Jeff Hartings, football / Olga Kalinovskaya, fencing

1997 Mac Fraser, swimming & diving / Becky Gusic, track & field 

1998 Joseph M. Roemer, gymnastics / Kimberly L. McGreevy, cross country

1999 Mike Griesser, tennis / Lesley Spada, swimming & diving

2000 Dan Schall, volleyball / Tasha Kulka, swimming & diving 

2001 Omar J. Bhutta, fencing / Beth Buchheit, cross country/track & field

2002 Andy Latowski, golf / Katie Anderson, swimming & diving

2003 Martin Schierhorn, swimming & diving / Emily Oleksiuk, soccer

2004 Clint Keithley, tennis / Katie Futcher, golf

2005 Jerker Taudien, gymnastics / Joanna Lohman, soccer

2006 Matt Proper, volleyball / Sarah Haupt, swimming & diving

2007 Daniel Kaiserian, swimming & diving / Stephanie Sullivan, gymnastics

2008 Conrad Taylor, soccer / Molly Crispell, swimming & diving

2009 James Pagana, track & field / Zoe Bouchelle, soccer

2010 Jason Yeisley, soccer / Ashley Griffith, softball

2011 Stefen Wisniewski, football / Jessica Babcock, track & field

2012 Miguel Pineda, gymnastics / Erin Thomas, swimming & diving

2013 John Urschel, football / Petra Januskova, tennis

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Last Updated March 11, 2014