100 Days of the Big Ten Medal of Honor: Day 6

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In 1914, the Big Ten commissioned sculptor R. Tait McKenzie to create the Big Ten Medal of Honor. A childhood friend of James Naismith (the inventor of basketball), McKenzie developed a love for athletics while studying to be a doctor at McGill University. He became involved in acrobatics, gymnastics, set a high jump record, ran hurdles, boxed, played football, and was on the tug-of-war team.  Throughout his medical career as a physician, surgeon and later professor of anatomy at McGill and as an owner of his own practice in Montreal, he became more and more interested in how physical exercise could be used as preventative medicine. As an escape he started sculpting athletes around 1900. As his work gained in popularity, McKenzie often participated as an exhibitor during the competition of fine arts at the Olympics. Before the Stockholm Games in 1912, the American Olympic Committee commissioned him to create a sports medallion. His Joy of Effort Medallion became one of his most famous works, and the Big Ten commissioned him to create the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1914. He later won a bronze medal in the reliefs and medallions category at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles for a work called the Shield of the Athletes.

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