Awards and Honors

Northern Illinois wins diversity and inclusion award

Northern Illinois University’s athletics department has earned the NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association’s 2016 Award for Diversity and Inclusion. The department will receive the honor at the NCAA Convention in January in San Antonio.

2016 NCAA Inspiration Award: O.J. Brigance

Brigance’s battle is moving, but the people who knew him best when he was Rice’s star defensive player in the late 1980s say ALS didn’t make him an inspiration, it simply found its way into a man who already was one: Today, he is the same person who once wrung every drop of sweat from his teammates on the field and who was their conscience off of it.

Lauren Hill, O.J. Brigance to receive 2016 NCAA Inspiration Award

The Inspiration Award is presented to a coach or administrator currently associated with intercollegiate athletics, or to a current or former varsity letter-winner at an NCAA institution. It is reserved for people who, when confronted with life-altering situations, used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome their trauma.

NCAA honors 2016 Silver Anniversary Award winners

The NCAA will recognize six former student-athletes with the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award for their collegiate and professional achievements. The Silver Anniversary Award annually recognizes distinguished individuals on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their college athletics careers.

2016 Silver Anniversary Award winner: Dikembe Mutombo

Weary of watching his neighbors die from treatable diseases, Dikembe Mutombo yearned to become a doctor, return home and help those closest to him. Growing to 7 feet 2 inches, though, Mutombo thrived in a different arena, but it hasn’t stopped him from helping those in need. He parlayed a basketball career into a life devoted to impacting countless others around the world.

2016 Silver Anniversary Award winner: Steve Smith

Steve Smith relished his time as a student-athlete, and the experience paved the way for a 14-year NBA career and nearly a decade working in broadcasting. Despite those successes, he never forgot his roots and has since donated time and money to the college he remembers fondly.

2016 Silver Anniversary Award winner: Russell Maryland

As a young boy, Russell Maryland’s father told him “anything you put your mind to, you have to do with all your heart.” Years later, no phrase better encapsulates Maryland’s decorated football career and commitment to community stewardship.

2016 Silver Anniversary Award winner: Chris Howard

Chris Howard thrives on balancing multiple roles. He is currently wrapping up his stint as the president of Hampden-Sydney College while preparing to take over as president of Robert Morris University.

2016 Silver Anniversary Award winner: Joé Juneau

In his younger years, Joé Juneau didn’t yearn to start a nonprofit. As a hockey player who studied aeronautics, he didn’t imagine a career outside of his sport or engineering. Somewhere along the way, though, Juneau found himself directing youth organizations in an Inuit community in Canada.

2016 Silver Anniversary Award winner: Abby Cheng

Abby Cheng was a California girl who chased her ambitions all the way to Arkansas. The lessons she learned from taking that leap during her junior and senior years of college have shaped the rest of her career and life, even coloring the advice she now imparts to her daughters.

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