President Barack Obama awards Pat Summitt, former women's college basketball head coach, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo)
WASHINGTON (AP) - Longtime Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony Tuesday.
Obama said that Summitt, who led the University of Tennessee women's basketball team to more NCAA Final Four appearances than any other team, had helped pave the way for his two daughters, "who are tall and gifted."
"They're standing up straight and diving after loose balls and feeling confident and strong," he said. "I understand that the impact that these people have had extends beyond me. It will continue for generations to come."
The 59-year old Summitt stepped down last month after 38 years as the Lady Volunteers head coach because she's suffering from early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
Summitt is the winningest coach in college basketball history taking Tennessee to the Final Four a record 18 times and producing eight national championships.
She was one of 13 recipients. The others were Madeleine Albright, John Doar, Bob Dylan, William Foege, John Glenn, Gordon Hirabayashi, Dolores Huerta, Jan Karski, Juliette Gordon Low, Toni Morrison, Shimon Peres and John Paul Stevens.
The president noted that the awards ceremony Tuesday led to a "packed house, which is testament to how cool this group is." Obama said the honorees have moved Americans with their words and inspired them with their actions.
"Everybody on this stage has marked my life in profound ways," he said.
The Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor. It's presented to individuals who have made meritorious contributions to the national interests of the United States, to world peace or to other significant endeavors.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)