Skip to main content
Penn Notables

Awards and Honors University of Pennsylvania’s Medal for Distinguished Achievement

In October 1992 the Trustees of the University established the “University of Pennsylvania Medal for Distinguished Achievement” in order to make possible the recognition of a public official or major benefactor or anniversary celebration at some time in the year “other than Commencement.” The Trustees agreed that their own Honorary Degrees and Awards Committee would serve as “the approving authority for the award of the Medal.” The full text of the Trustees’ resolution can be read on page three of the October 20, 1992 Trustees Minutes.

The Trustees have awarded the University of Pennsylvania Medal for Distinguished Achievement to the following individuals and institutions on the following occasions:


2011 Raymond G. Perelman
In recognition of his untiring efforts and immeasurable contributions to the health and well-being, education and cultural opportunities in Philadelphia and beyond.
2006 Wangari Maathai
Founder of the Green Belt Movement
In recognition of her innumerable contributions to world peace, the environment, and human society as recipient of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize
2004 Wole Soyinka
Dramatist, poet, director, novelist, essayist
In recognition of his contributions to world literature and human society as recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature
2003 Leonard A. Lauder
Businessman and philanthropist
In recognition of his distinguished service to the University and being appointed an Emeritus trustee. Presented at a Trustee dinner, November 2003.
2002 Arlen Specter
U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania
In recognition of his distinguished career in public service and of his efforts to increase funding for biomedical research at the federal level
2002 William A. Wulf
National Academy of Engineering
Sesquicentennial celebration of the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) at the University of Pennsylvania
2001 Alan MacDiarmid, Hideki Shirakawa, and Alan J. Heeger
Nobel Laureates
In recognition of their achievements as recipients of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
2000 Sandra Day O’Connor
Associate Justice
U.S. Supreme Court
Sesquicentennial celebration of the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania
1999 Freeman J. Dyson
and Cathleen Synge Morawetz

Two distinguished mathematicians
Centennial celebration of mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania
1996 John Christian
John Goodenough
and Robert Maddin

Three distinguished material scientists
50th anniversary celebration of materials science and engineering at the University of Pennsylvania
1996 Albert Gore
Vice President of the United States
50th anniversary celebration of the invention of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC)
1994 Leonore Annenberg
and Walter H. Annenberg

Trustees Emeriti
Closing ceremonies of the Campaign for Penn
1994 American Philosophical Society 250th anniversary of its founding by Benjamin Franklin
1993 Neil Amundson
Stuart W. Churchill
and Arthur Humphrey

Three distinguished chemical engineers
Centennial celebration of chemical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania
1993 Janet Reno
Attorney General of the United States
Dedication ceremony of the Nicole E. Tanenbaum Hall of the Law School