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American Spirit Awards 2016 | American Spirit Medallion Recipients

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The American Spirit Awards is an awards gala celebrating individuals and organizations whose work reflects the values and spirit of those who served our country during the World War II years. On Friday, June 10, 2016, The National WWII Museum and Whitney Bank will honor those who inspire others through their own acts of courage, sacrifice, initiative and generosity—particularly in the areas of leadership, service to country or community and education.

This prestigious honor of the American Spirit Medallion is bestowed upon individuals who demonstrate extraordinary dedication to the principles that strengthen America’s freedom and democracy. Through their work and philanthropy, American Spirit Medallion recipients exemplify the highest standards of integrity, discipline, and initiative while making unselfish contributions to their community, state, or the nation. Past recipients of this honor include WWII Medal of Honor recipients like Vernon Baker, Van T. Barfoot, Walter D. Ehlers, and Hershel “Woody” Williams, and notable public figures like Tom Brokaw, Gary Sinise, Tom Hanks, and Collin Powell.

This year, the Museum is humbled to present this honor to Dr. Norman C. Francis and Governor William Winter.



asa-francisAs president of the nation’s only historically black and Catholic university from 1968 to 2015, Dr. Francis guided Xavier University’s growth both in size and dimension. Through his leadership, the university instituted a core curriculum and was nationally recognized as a leader in minority education. Xavier has been especially successful in educating health professionals. In premedical education, Xavier has been ranked first in the nation in placing African American students into medical schools since 1993. Named by his peers as one of the 100 most effective college and university leaders, Dr. Francis, who retired as president at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 academic year, is often cited for his involvement in the community and for his work on the national, state and local levels to improve education. He has served in an advisory role to eight US presidential administrations on education and civil rights issues, and has served on 54 boards and commissions. In 2006, President George W. Bush presented him with the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.



asa-winterLong before leading Mississippi as governor from 1980 to 1984, William Winter served as an infantry officer in America and in the Pacific during World War II. After returning home, he began a career in elected public service. Throughout his career, Winter’s mission has been to strengthen public education while championing racial reconciliation as well as historic preservation and economic development. He has served as chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board, the Commission on the Future of the South, the National Civic League, the Kettering Foundation, the Foundation for the Mid South, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Ole Miss Alumni Association. He was a member of President Clinton’s National Advisory Board on Race and was instrumental in the founding of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi. He was awarded the Profile in Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. An attorney in the Jones Walker law firm in Jackson, Mississippi, he is a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law.

During the ceremony the Museum will also honor veterans and those with a direct connection to World War II who have served our country with distinction and, upon retirement, continue to lead by example with the Silver Service Medallion. Learn more about this year’s Silver Service Medallion recipients.


Proceeds from the American Spirit Awards support educational programming at The National WWII Museum—including the ongoing development of classroom materials and professional development opportunities for teachers in schools across the country as well as online experiences that bring the Museum and its research resources to students around the world. Learn how you can support these efforts too.

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