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Big Ten Highlights Class of 2014 to Conclude 100-Year Celebration of Big Ten Medal of Honor

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SOURCE Big Ten Conference

Program Celebrates a Century of Excellence On and Off the Field

ROSEMONT, Ill., June 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Big Ten Conference concluded its 100th anniversary celebration of the esteemed Big Ten Medal of Honor by highlighting the 2014 class of honorees on Wednesday.  Twenty-four student-athletes from 17 different sports were honored with the prestigious award, which was established in 1915 and was the first award in intercollegiate athletics to demonstrate support for the educational emphasis placed on athletics. The Big Ten Medal of Honor is awarded to one male and one female student-athlete from the graduating class of each member institution who has demonstrated excellence on and off the field throughout their college career.

The Big Ten Conference opened the Big Ten Experience to the public on June 7. The interactive digital museum located at the conference's headquarters in Rosemont, Ill., brings the conference's storied academic and athletic history to life and places it at fans’ fingertips. The Big Ten Experience features a collection of 13 interactive exhibits, including a Big Ten Medal of Honor display, showcasing conference notables dating back to 1896, the year the conference was founded.

This year's list of distinguished student-athletes includes Academic All-America and All-Big Ten honorees, individual award winners and NCAA and Big Ten team and individual champions.  All 24 of the recipients have been named Academic All-Big Ten at least once in their career and 15 received All-Conference recognition this academic year. This class of honorees is pursuing diverse fields of study with a list of majors that include pre-med, sociology, computer engineering, political science, finance and management, biosystems engineering and many others.

The 2014 Big Ten Medal of Honor class of recipients boasts five Academic All-Americans: Illinois' Vanessa DiBernardo, Iowa's James Morris, Nebraska's Emily Wong, Northwestern's Marisa Bast and Ohio State's Aaron Craft. Craft became the Buckeyes' first three-time Academic All-American and was named the men's basketball Academic All-American of the Year each of the last two years.  Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase and Iowa's Morris were Outstanding Sportsmanship Award winners, while Michigan State's Greg Wolfe and Nebraska's Wong were also named Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honorees in their respective sports during the academic year. Indiana's Meghan Lappan and Iowa's Morris and Marike Stribos were recipients of Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarships, given to one male and one female student-athlete from each of the Big Ten institutions who plan to continue their education at a graduate degree program.

Athletically, nine student-athletes were Big Ten individual and/or team champions and one was a member of a national championship team. Ohio State's Allison Elber helped lead the Buckeyes to consecutive national titles and Big Ten Championships in women's rowing. Other Medal of Honor winners to earn Big Ten regular season or tournament team titles were Michigan's John Wojciechowski in men's swimming and diving, Michigan State's Kristen Henn in field hockey, Minnesota's Sara Moulton in softball, Nebraska's Wong in women's gymnastics, Penn State's Emily Giannotti in women's track and field and Wisconsin's Reed Connor in men's track and field. Individual Big Ten champions included Wojciechowski in the 200-yard and 400-yard medley relays, Minnesota's Derek Toomey in the 50-yard freestyle, Nebraska's Wong in the floor exercise and balance beam, Purdue's Casey Matthews in one-meter diving and Wisconsin's Connor in the 3,000- and 10,000 meters. Four Big Ten Medal of Honor winners garnered individual accolades for their athletic performances during the 2013-14 season: Nebraska's Wong was tabbed Big Ten Women's Gymnast of the Year, Ohio State's Craft earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year laurels, Purdue's Matthews was honored as Big Ten Co-Diver of the Championships and Wisconsin's Connor was named Big Ten Men's Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.

To commemorate the milestone anniversary, the Big Ten Conference executed a 100-day national campaign, profiling notable honorees and the history of the award on social media channels and the conference website each day since March 11.  Select on-campus celebrations featured past award recipients and recognition ceremonies. The Big Ten also recognized previous winners in all weekly releases and highlighted the distinguished honor in every conference tournament and championship program.

During the past century, the Big Ten Medal of Honor has been awarded to more than 1,300 honorees. These individuals have translated their campus experience as student-athletes into success in all walks of life. Notable winners who have had tremendous success in careers outside of sports include:

  • Keith D. Nosbusch (Wisconsin, 1973, football): Chairman and CEO of Rockwell Automation
  • Jennifer Hsia (Indiana, 2001, tennis): Assistant professor and otolaryngologist at University of Minnesota, who cares for patients with obstructive sleep apnea and sleep-disorder breathing
  • Tim Gutshall (Iowa, 1979, football): Family physician and VP and Chief Medical Officer of Wellmark
  • Mike Hopkins (Illinois, 1992, football): Flight engineer for the International Space Station, who recently returned to earth after orbiting in space for nine months
  • Uta (Herrmann) Wolfe (Minnesota, 1992, swimming): Assistant professor at St. Thomas University where her study of senses and visuo-motor control recently led to the discovery of a new multi-sensory illusion

Other honorees feature some of today's most legendary sports figures including:

  • Jerry Lucas (Ohio State, 1963, basketball): Two-time National Player of the Year, seven-time NBA All-Star and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame
  • Tony Dungy (Minnesota, 1977, football): Golden Gophers' all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, who also made playoff appearances in 11 out of 13 years during his tenure as coach in the NFL, including a victory in Super Bowl XLI at the helm of the Indianapolis Colts
  • Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern, 1997, football): Two-time consensus All-American, who will begin his ninth season as head coach at his alma mater and has guided Northwestern to five bowl games
  • Drew Brees (Purdue, 2001, football): Led Boilermakers to Big Ten title and Rose Bowl Game as senior and the New Orleans Saints to a Super Bowl victory in 2010

To learn more about the Big Ten Medal of Honor, including this year's honorees, visit bigten.org.

Big Ten Medal of Honor Class of 2014:

Illinois
Vanessa DiBernardo, Women's Soccer 
Nathan Scheelhaase, Football

Indiana
Meghan Lappan, Water Polo
Ryan LeBlanc, Wrestling

Iowa
Marike Stribos, Field Hockey
James Morris, Football

Michigan
Jillian Smith, Women's Cross Country and Track and Field
John Wojciechowski, Men's Swimming and Diving

Michigan State
Kristen Henn, Field Hockey
Greg Wolfe, Men's Ice Hockey

Minnesota
Sara Moulton, Softball
Derek Toomey, Men's Swimming and Diving

Nebraska
Emily Wong, Women's Gymnastics 
Seth Wiedel, Men's Track and Field

Northwestern
Marisa Bast, Softball
Raleigh Smith, Men's Tennis

Ohio State
Allison Elber, Women's Rowing
Aaron Craft, Men's Basketball

Penn State
Emily Giannotti, Women's Track and Field
Adrian Evans, Men's Gymnastics

Purdue
Casey Matthews, Women's Swimming and Diving
Matt Friede, Men's Swimming and Diving

Wisconsin
Mary Massei, Softball
Reed Connor, Men's Track and Field

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 collegiate careers.

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140618/119301
Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140618/119300

©2012 PR Newswire. All Rights Reserved.

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