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July 6, 2022

Harrar and Parker Selected Big Ten Medal of Honor Recipients

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa – Men’s basketball fifth-year senior John Harrar and women’s volleyball senior Jonni Parker have been selected as Penn State’s 2021-22 recipients of the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor.

The Big Ten, the nation’s oldest collegiate conference, commemorates the 107th anniversary of a very unique tradition – the Big Ten Medal of Honor – awarded to one male and one female student from the graduating class of each member institution who has demonstrated excellence on and off the field throughout their college career.

The conference’s most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student from the graduating class of each university who had “attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work.”

In 1982, the award was expanded to include one female student-athlete from each member institution. Big Ten institutions feature early 10,000 students competing in intercollegiate athletics, but only 28 earn this prestigious award on an annual basis. In more than 100 years of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, nearly 1,400 students have earned this distinction.

Parker is the fourth women’s volleyball student-athlete to win Big Ten Medal of Honor laurels, Michele Robinson (1992), Nia Grant (2015) and Haleigh Washington (2018). Harrar is the second Nittany Lion men’s basketball student-athlete to earn the award, joining John Amaechi (1995).

John Harrar
Harrar’s grit, determination and toughness led him to becoming one of the most beloved Nittany Lions in program history. Despite playing for three different head coaches during his time in Happy Valley, John developed into a true leader and culture builder, and a highly-accomplished student-athlete both on and off the court.

Harrar wrapped up his Penn State career with a program-record 146 games played. The Wallingford, Pennsylvania native finished his final season as one of just two Big Ten players to average a double-double with 10.6 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game, making him the first Nittany Lion in 22 years to finish the season averaging a double-double. Harrar shot 64.0 percent from the field this season, tied for the second-best single-season mark in Penn State history. A two-time All-Big Ten honorable mention selection, he graduates No. 2 all-time in career FG% (59.6%), No. 5 all-time in career rebounds (854) and as one of just six players in program history with upwards of 800 career points and 800 career rebounds.

Harrar was consistently praised by opposing coaches and national media alike for his discipline, work ethic and determination as he blossomed into one of the best big men in the most physical league in the country:

“There’s no question John Harrar was the difference in the game,” said legendary Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo after Harrar and the Nittany Lions beat the 19th-ranked Spartans in February 2022. “He’s gotten better every year. [He] doesn’t complain about what he’s doing. He just keeps getting stronger and better. I told him I’m proud he’s a Big Ten player. I look at our league, he’s the kind of guy you want to represent your league. Just keeps doing his job.”

A four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Harrar earned his bachelor’s degree in business management in May 2021 and master’s degree in management and organizational leadership in May 2022. Harrar is a three-time Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree, including the Outstanding Big Ten Sportsmanship Award in 2021, and was also named a top 30 candidate for the Senior CLASS Award and Penn State’s Ernest B. McCoy Memorial Award winner.

Jonni Parker
Parker earned four All-America honors during her time as a Penn State right-side hitter, receiving third-team recognition as a freshman and senior and honorable mention status during her sophomore and junior seasons. She was a four-time All-Northeast Region selection and a four-time All-Big Ten honoree. She made her presence known immediately in the toughest conference in the nation, earning the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award in 2018. Parker was one of the most versatile players in the Big Ten as a six-rotation star for the Lions, finishing with career totals of 1,406 kills, 752 digs, 314 blocks and 94 aces.

A fan favorite off the court, Parker was known for staying at Rec Hall long after matches to meet the younger fans in attendance after both wins and losses. The elementary education major played her senior season while completing a semester as a student teacher at a nearby elementary school and didn’t miss a beat while earning a third-straight Academic All-Big Ten honor. Her success in the classroom, as well as her work in the community, helped her land a spot on the Senior CLASS Award first team. She also received the prestigious Ernest B. McCoy award presented annually since 1971 to one senior female and one senior male student-athlete who have combined successful athletic participation with academic excellence.

Parker’s work in the community included time with the Reading Rewards program, Penn State THON fundraiser, All-Sports Museum Trick-or-Treat, and the Spiritus Leoninus Organization. She played a pivotal role in the volleyball team’s annual Silent Set match, which helped raise awareness for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. She went on to start her own non-profit organization to support the same cause, founding Chasing Greatness during her senior season. The organization’s purpose is to support persons 18 years and younger with hearing loss by creating funding opportunities for hearing aids and the enhancement of life skills.

Penn State Among the Nation’s Premier Athletic Programs in Comprehensive Excellence
Under Barbour’s leadership, Penn State has one of the nation’s most comprehensive and successful athletic programs, featuring 800 student-athletes across 31 varsity programs (16 men’s, 15 women’s). The Nittany Lions’ 31 programs are tied for the fourth-highest number of sports sponsored by a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institution.

Nittany Lion students have posted an NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of program-record 92 percent in the most recent report. Ten teams earned a 100 percent graduation rate in the 2021 NCAA Graduation Rates Report. The Nittany Lions rank No. 4 among all Division I schools with 213 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans all-time.

Penn State student-athletes have led the athletic department to 47 Big Ten championships and nine NCAA National Championships since October 2013. Penn State is one of only five schools that have won at least 10 NCAA Championships since 2012 and earned at least a 90 percent Graduation Success Rate in the 2021 NCAA report (Stanford, Florida, USC, Virginia). The Nittany Lions rank fifth in the Learfield IMG College Director’s Cup following the fall season.

Record-Breaking NCAA Graduation Success Rate
The 2021 NCAA graduation rate report of Division I institutions across the nation revealed Penn State student-athletes at the University Park campus earned a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 92% to tie the school’s all-time record of 92, which was previously set in the 2020 NCAA report. Nittany Lion students posted a 92% graduation rate compared to the 89% average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2011-12 through the 2014-15 academic year.

Penn State student-athletes have logged a Graduation Success Rate in the 88-92% range during each of the past 15 NCAA reports, improving from 88% in the 2015 report to a record-breaking 92% report in 2020 and 2021. Sixteen of the Nittany Lions’ 27 teams (men’s and women’s track and field/cross country teams combined) earned a Graduation Success Rate at or above the Division I national GSR average for their respective sport. A total of 18 Penn State squads have a GSR of 90% or higher.

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