KU Alum, Dean Smith, Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama honored 16 recipients, including Dean Smith, former Kansas men’s basketball player and assistant coach and legendary North Carolina basketball coach, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom Wednesday. The honor dates back to an executive order from former President John F. Kennedy establishing the award. Kennedy was assassinated 50 years ago Friday (Nov. 22, 1963).

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. According to the White House, this award is given to individuals “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Smith competed at Kansas from 1949-53 and was a part of the Jayhawks’ national championship team in 1952, under the guidance of head coach Forrest “Phog” Allen. Smith and the Jayhawks were national runners-up in 1953.

After graduation, Smith served as an assistant coach at Kansas under Allen for the 1953-54 season. Smith then went on to coach North Carolina basketball from 1961-97, winning two national championships. When he retired, he was the winningest coach in college basketball history.

In addition to Smith, others receiving the 2013 Presidential Medal of Honor included: former President Bill Clinton; Oprah Winfrey, television personality and philanthropist; baseball legend Ernie Banks; Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of The Washington Post when they broke news of the Watergate scandal; Daniel Inouye, the late Hawaii senator and first Japanese-American to serve in Congress; Daniel Kahneman a pioneering psychology scholar who earned the Nobel Prize in economics; former Senator Richard Lugar, Indiana, who worked to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons; country music legend Loretta Lynn; chemist and scientist Mario Molina; Sally Ride, the first female American astronaut to travel to space; Bayard Rustin, a civil rights and gay rights activist who worked with Dr. Martin Luther King; musician Arturo Sandoval; feminist movement leader and author Gloria Steinem; minister and civil rights leader Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian; and Judge Patricia Wald.

Smith did not attend the ceremony in Washington. He was represented by his wife, Dr. Linnea Smith, his children, long-time coaching assistant Bill Guthridge and former Kansas coach and current UNC head coach Roy Williams.

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