June 3, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. -- The Big Ten, the nation's oldest collegiate conference, this year commemorates the 100th anniversary of a very unique tradition - the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Northwestern is proud to announce today (June 3) that seniors Marisa Bast (Orange, Calif./Villa Park) of softball and Raleigh Smith (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) of men's tennis are the Wildcats' centennial honorees.
The conference's most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had "attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work." Big Ten schools currently feature more than 8,200 student-athletes, but only 24 earn this prestigious award on an annual basis. In the 99 years of the Medal of Honor, over 1,300 student-athletes have earned this distinction.
While the Big Ten Medal of Honor deals with collegiate athletics and academics, one of Northwestern's award winners has family ties to the United States' highest military honor for valor which has the same name: The Congressional Medal of Honor. Bast's great uncle, Ted Tanouye, brother of her grandfather Isao, posthumously received the military's highest award following his bravery during World War II while much of his family lived in Japanese internment camps. Read her family's story in this 2012 feature.
This year's Northwestern Big Ten Medal of Honor winners have distinguished themselves in competition and in the classroom, just as the 130 previous Wildcats' honorees before them.
Marisa Bast, softball
An All-American on the field and an Academic All-American in the classroom, Bast also has left a lasting legacy in the Evanston and Chicagoland communities.
On the field, Bast was named an All-American in 2012 after nearly winning the Big Ten's Triple Crown. She concluded her career ranked among Northwestern's all-time leaders in nine different offensive categories. In the classroom, Bast is a two-time Capital One Academic All-American, a three-time Academic All-Big Ten award winner and a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. In the community, she helped create from the ground up the Wildcats Stand Up and ROARR anti-bullying initiative that has been presented in nearly a dozen area schools already.
Bast will graduate with a degree in Learning and Organizational Change and already has a job secured with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange - a position she earned after performing well during an internship secured out of more than 1,000 applicants last summer.
Raleigh Smith, Men's Tennis
A mainstay in the Northwestern men's tennis lineup all four of his years, Smith has been a key contributor to the program's rebirth. A first-team All-Big Ten selection as both a junior and a senior, Smith helped guide the Wildcats to three-consecutive NCAA tournament berths. His outstanding play over the last two years has had a direct correlation with Northwestern posting its second and third winningest seasons in school history.
As a junior, he pulled off the rare sweep at the Big Ten Indoor Championships, claiming both the singles and doubles titles. This past season, he earned top-40 national rankings in both singles and doubles and earned the right to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship in Athens, Georgia.
An Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Smith is graduating with a degree in learning and organizational change. He too has been active in the community, playing a large role in Northwestern's first-in-college participation in the NFL's Fuel Up To Play 60 initiative in local schools. In conjunction with the Midwest Dairy Council, NU is acting as test case to bring the NFL program into colleges.
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