WASHINGTON, D.C. (WATE) – University of Tennessee women's basketball head coach emeritus Pat Summitt received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Tuesday in a White House ceremony.
President Barack Obama presented the awards, the nation's highest civilian honor.
The Medal of Freedom honors individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
“Everybody on this stage has marked my life in profound ways, and I was telling somebody like Pat Summitt, you know, when I think about my two daughters who are tall and gifted, and knowing that because of folks like Coach Summitt they're standing up straight and diving after loose balls and feeling confident and strong, then I understand that the impact of the people getting these awards extends beyond me,” President Obama said during the ceremony.
Also honored at the ceremony in person were:
- former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
- civil rights leader and Assistant Attorney General John Doar
- singer/songwriter Bob Dylan
- physician and epidemiologist William Foege
- astronaut and former U.S. Sen. John Glenn
- civil and women's advocate Dolores Huerta
- author Toni Morrison
- Israeli President Shimon Peres
- retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens
Three people were honored posthumously:
- Polish Underground leader Jan Karski, who exposed Nazi atrocities during World War II
- Gordon Hirabayashi, who openly defied the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II
- Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts
Summitt is the all-time winningest leader among NCAA basketball coaches. Her teams at the University of Tennessee have appeared in more Final Fours than any other and she has the second best record of NCAA Championships in basketball.
Since her own diagnosis of early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, she has been a spokesperson against Alzheimer's. Her foundation is working to provide education, awareness, and support to patients and families.