WASHINGTON, D.C. (WATE) - University of Tennessee women's basketball head coach emeritus Pat Summitt received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Tuesday in a White House ceremony.
President Barack Obama presented the awards, the nation's highest civilian honor.
The Medal of Freedom honors 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.
"Everybody on this stage has marked my life in profound ways, and I was telling somebody like Pat Summitt, you know, when I think about my two daughters who are tall and gifted, and knowing that because of folks like Coach Summitt they're standing up straight and diving after loose balls and feeling confident and strong, then I understand that the impact of the people getting these awards extends beyond me," President Obama said during the ceremony.
Also honored at the ceremony in person were:
Three people were honored posthumously:
Sen. Lamar Alexander released this statement congratulating Pat Summitt. "I could not be more proud to congratulate Pat Summitt on receiving the nation's highest civilian honor, recognizing what Tennesseans have valued in her for so long—her remarkable skill and her strong character; her commitment to the community, UT and her players; and her love of the game, which changed women's basketball forever. Honey and I wish her the best in what will no doubt be an equally inspiring effort to fight Alzheimer's."
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said, "Her legacy is more than just her incredible winning record; it is also the 100% graduation rate of her players, and the countless young women who were inspired to play sports by her example. From her humble beginnings driving the team van to games, Pat Summitt built the Lady Vols into a national powerhouse with 38 straight years of winning seasons. I congratulate Coach Summitt on a well deserved Presidential Medal of Freedom."
And Sen. Bob Corker said, "It's highly appropriate that coach Summitt is joining this very elite group of Americans who have made extraordinary contributions to our country. It's hard to think of anyone who has had a greater impact on his or her profession, and I think we all know that Pat's contributions to the game of basketball, to women's athletics, to the University of Tennessee, and to our state will be felt for many, many years to come. I couldn't be happier for her."
Summitt is the all-time winningest leader among NCAA basketball coaches. Her teams at the University of Tennessee have appeared in more Final Fours than any other and she has the second best record of NCAA Championships in basketball.
Since her own diagnosis of early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, she has been a spokesperson against Alzheimer's. Her foundation is working to provide education, awareness, and support to patients and families.