U-M awards inaugural President’s Medal of Excellence


A U.S. senator, a national academic leader on democracy and racial justice, the university’s largest benefactor, and the winningest coach in NCAA softball history have received the University of Michigan’s inaugural President’s Medal of Excellence.

The award, presented by President Santa J. Ono, honors individuals for their extraordinary contributions to the mission and values of the university through their achievements within the university and beyond.

The inaugural 2024 award winners are:

  • Carol S. Hutchins, retired U-M head coach of the women’s softball program.
  • Earl Lewis, award-winning author and Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies and Public Policy.
  • Stephen M. Ross, U-M alumnus and donor, and business leader.
  • U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.

The recipients were honored June 11 at a private luncheon with university leadership and other special guests at the President’s Residence.

“This award was created for outstanding individuals who epitomize our credo of the leaders and best, and even more, who exemplify our ethos of service, achievement and excellence,” Ono said at the ceremony. “The medals we are set to present are profound expressions of our gratitude.”

The President’s Medal of Excellence is awarded at the discretion of the president to four to eight individuals per year. An advisory committee recommends the honorees, which may include donors, politicians, artists, academics, athletes and others.

Carol Hutchins

Carol Hutchins
Carol Hutchins

Hutchins was named Big Ten Coach of the Year 18 times. When she concluded her 38-year career as head coach of the U-M’s women’s softball program in 2022, her record was, and remains, unmatched: 1,707 wins, 551 losses and five ties.

She has been a national advocate for equity and equality in women’s sports for more than 50 years.

In her senior year as a student-athlete at Michigan State University — nine years before Congress ensured Title IX included equal protection in sports — she and her basketball teammates filed Hutchins vs. Board of Trustees of Michigan State University to receive the same food and lodging allowances during away games as the men’s team. Winning the case, she said, “was just the beginning for me as an advocate for women.”

Hutchins is recognized for her unmatched coaching prowess and fearless advocacy on behalf of women and girls to pave the way for a more equitable sports landscape.

Earl Lewis

Earl Lewis

As a social historian, author and academic leader, Lewis has devoted his life’s work to scholarship on democracy and racial justice, elevating the lessons of the past to inform and shape the future for U-M, the United States and the world.

In 2023, President Joe Biden honored him with the National Humanities Medal in recognition of his efforts to deepen the nation’s understanding of human culture and experience. He is the first individual from U-M to receive the award.

Lewis is recognized for his stewardship of the Rackham School of Graduate Studies, including efforts to innovate doctoral education and encourage doctoral studies in science and engineering among underrepresented students, and his scholarship, leadership and moral conviction affirming the promise of democracy for a just and prosperous society.

Stephen M. Ross

Stephen M. Ross
Stephen Ross

In U-M’s 207-year history, Ross has been its largest benefactor and one of its most consequential alumni leaders. He is the founder and chairman of Related Companies, the co-founder and chairman of RSE Ventures, the owner of the Miami Dolphins and an ardent champion of sustainable cities.

His exceptional commitment to social justice and equality has been as transformative as his generosity. Ross is a member of the President’s Advisory Group and chaired the Victors for Michigan campaign that raised $5 billion, the most successful fundraising effort in the history of public higher education.

Ross is recognized for his achievements and his generosity, which have helped transform the university and the hundreds of thousands of lives that are being enriched now and for generations to come.

Debbie Stabenow

Debbie Stabenow
Debbie Stabenow

For a half-century, Stabenow has been dedicated to public service, advocating for, protecting and improving the lives of all Americans.

As a U.S. senator, she helped draft the Affordable Care Act and sponsored Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction, bipartisan legislation transforming the nation’s community behavioral health care services.

A gun-safety advocate, Stabenow helped write significant mental health provisions into the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first major gun-reform legislation in three decades.

She is a national leader on children’s, veterans’ and women’s health issues and helped open 10 community health centers in Detroit.

Stabenow is recognized for her service to the people of the state of Michigan and her legislative leadership.


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