The Big Ten Medal of Honor is awarded to one male and one female student from the graduating class of each member institution who has demonstrated excellence on and off the field throughout their college career. The highest honor that a student competing in conference athletics can achieve in the Big Ten, the award was established in 1915 and was the first award in intercollegiate athletics to demonstrate support for the educational emphasis placed on athletics. During the past century, the Big Ten Medal of Honor has been awarded to nearly 1,400 honorees. These individuals have translated their campus experience into success in all walks of life.
Graduate student Erin Finn, a native of West Bloomfield, Mich., from the women's track & field/cross country program is the female recipient of the prestigious award. She is the 14th track & field student-athlete at Michigan to receive the honor with the last being Jillian Smith in 2014.
Finn, who has earned her undergraduate degree in biochemistry, is now pursuing a master's degree in epidemiology from the School of Public Health. She was named the 2017 CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year and is a two-time Academic All-America honoree. She is a three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and was the 2014 Michigan Female Rookie of the Year. She also earned the 2017 American Institute of Chemists Award for biochemistry.
As an athlete, Finn has enjoyed an illustrious career at Michigan. She is a four-time national runner-up, nine-time All-American, nine-time Big Ten champion and five-time Big Ten Athlete of the Year. She is the only woman in collegiate history to run 15:30 or faster at two consecutive NCAA Indoor 5,000m finals and holds school records in the indoor 3,000m and 5,000m and outdoor 5,000m and 10,000m. She was a finalist for the 2017 AAU James E. Sullivan Award and was a 2016 Olympic Trials qualifier but did not compete due to injury.
The male recipient of the award is graduate student PJ Ransford, a native Pittsford, N.Y., from men's swimming & diving. He becomes the 15th Medal of Honor recipient from the swimming and diving program and fourth in the last seven years.
A team captain in 2017-18, Ransford graduated in December with a degree in mechanical engineering and is working on his master's in the same field. He has maintained a 4.0 GPA and received the NCAA Elite 90 Award for the second straight year. The Elite 90 Award is given to the student-athlete at the NCAA Championships with the highest GPA. He is a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American.
In the pool, Ransford is a three-time All-American and has three honorable mention All-America citations. A three-time All-Big Ten selection, he was the 2016 Big Ten champion in the 1,650 freestyle and won bronze medals in the 500-yard freestyle and 1,650-yard freestyle at the 2018 Big Ten Championships. He is currently a member of the U.S. National Team and represented USA Swimming at the 2017 World University Games in Taiwan.
The Big Ten Medal of Honor was the first award in intercollegiate athletics to demonstrate support for the educational emphasis placed on athletics. It was acclaimed throughout the nation, and in particular by the NCAA "as one of the significant gestures yet made in college sports." The Big Ten Medal of Honor was expanded in 1982 to include one female student-athlete from each institution.