Big Ten Announces Inaugural Class of Distinguished Scholar Award Recipients

July 15, 2009

With the 2008-09 academic year now concluded, the Big Ten Conference recognizes a total of 506 student-athletes who have been selected as the inaugural recipients of the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award. The list features student-athletes from every institution and 32 different sports who have earned a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.7 or higher for the previous academic year.

In February of 2008, Big Ten Faculty Representatives established a new conference academic recognition to supplement the Academic All-Big Ten program. Similar to the Academic All-Big Ten honor, Distinguished Scholar Award recipients must be letterwinners in at least their second academic year at their institution. However, the new award encompasses only student-athletes with a minimum GPA of 3.7 or higher for the previous academic year, excluding summer school. The Academic All-Big Ten threshold is a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher for their academic career.

Many of the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award winners received additional conference accolades throughout the academic year. Iowa’s Eric MacTaggart, Michigan State’s Sarah Schmidt, Minnesota’s Matt Nohelty and Jenny Shaughnessy and Ohio State’s Linda Haussener also earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor, which is given annually to a student in the graduating class of each university that demonstrated proficiency in scholarship and athletics. In addition, 41 Distinguished Scholar Award winners were named Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honorees for their respective sports during the year, including Minnesota’s Jamal Abu-Shamala and Ohio State’s Alyssa Meyer, who were chosen as two of 22 winners of the Outstanding Sportsmanship Award.

The Distinguished Scholar Award honorees were also successful outside of the classroom, with 66 standouts earning All-Big Ten laurels. These selections guided their teams to 18 Big Ten Championships and six Big Ten Tournament titles during the 2008-09 season. Eight selections helped their teams win national championships, including Iowa’s Ethan Sebert (wrestling), Northwestern’s Hilary Bowen and Meredith Frank (women’s lacrosse), Ohio State’s Liz Derr (synchronized swimming) and Penn State’s Charles Cimet, Robert Macclaren, Jessica-Kim Phuong Danh and Anne-Martine Jackson (fencing).  Sixteen Distinguished Scholar Award choices also captured individual Big Ten titles, while Indiana’s Christina Loukas (women’s swimming and diving) was the lone selection to win an individual national title.

The 2008-09 class of Distinguished Scholar Award recipients includes 69 student-athletes who maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA during the previous academic term, including honorees from all 11 institutions. A complete list of the 2008-09 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award winners is attached as a PDF.

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