Campus News

William S. Cohen '62 Wins "Teddy" Award from NCAA

Story posted November 15, 2000

The NCAA Honors Committee has awarded its Theodore Roosevelt Award — the highest honor the NCAA bestows on an individual — to William S. Cohen, the United States Secretary of Defense. Cohen ’62 was nominated for the award by Bowdoin College.

The award, also known as the "Teddy," is presented annually to a distinguished citizen who is a former college student-athlete and who has exemplified the ideals and purposes of college athletics by demonstrating a continuing interest and concern for physical fitness and sport.

The award was named after former President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt in recognition of his role in the inception of the NCAA. During Roosevelt’s term as president, there was a public outcry over the violence present in collegiate football games. Roosevelt told the leaders of several renowned universities that they had to either make the sport safer or he would abolish it. This led to the formation of an association committed to protecting the interests of student-athletes, now known as the NCAA.

Past Teddy honorees have included former United States presidents and leaders of education, business, government, industry and entertainment. Some of these illustrious honorees have been Omar N. Bradley, Bill Cosby, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Althea Gibson, Jesse Owens, Ronald Reagan, the 1999 Teddy winner Roger Staubach and John R. Wooden.

Cohen will become the 34th recipient of the Teddy at the NCAA Honors Dinner January 7 during the NCAA Convention in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

The first in his family to go to college, Cohen graduated cum laude with a major in Latin in 1962 from Bowdoin College, a Division III school. In 1965, he graduated cum laude from the Boston University School of Law.

He was successful in college both academically and athletically. A James Bowdoin Scholar, he was the Sewall and Emery prize recipient for Latin, a contributor to the Quill literary magazine and a member of Masque and Gown.

A three-year starter for the college’s Polar Bears basketball team, he was the team’s captain in 1961 and 1962 and led in scoring his junior and senior seasons. The Polar Bears were named the Maine all-state team in 1962. Cohen, who continues to play recreational basketball, received the Bowdoin’s Nixon Trophy for leadership and sportsmanship in 1962 and was named to the New England Hall of Fame Team that same year.

Cohen has a long history of public service and has never lost an election in the more than 30 years he has held public office. President Bill Clinton appointed Cohen the Secretary of the United States Defense in 1997, after Cohen chose not to seek re-election to the U.S. Senate. First elected to the Senate in 1978, Cohen was re-elected for two subsequent terms in 1984 and 1990.

Before his tenure in the Senate, Cohen served in Congress for Maine’s second congressional district. Elected to that seat in 1972, he was re-elected for a second term in 1974. He also has served as the Mayor of Bangor, Maine, and on city council and school boards.

Cohen has authored or co-authored nine books including poetry and novels beginning with his first, Of Sons and Seasons, in 1978. He was named an NCAA Silver Anniversary Award honoree in 1987, an award given to recognize those who have made outstanding achievements as student-athletes and in the 25 years following their graduation from college.

The Teddy is selected by the NCAA Honors Committee, which is composed of eight athletics administrators at member institutions and nationally distinguished citizens who are former student-athletes. The members of the NCAA Honors Committee are: Harry Carson, president, Harry Carson, Inc.; Eugene F. Corrigan, commissioner emeritus, Atlantic Coast Conference; Joseph Crowley, president, University of Nevada; Doug Echols, commissioner, South Atlantic Conference; Jack Ford, ABC news anchor, 20/20; Valerie Richardson, assistant commissioner, West Coast Conference; Kathryn Springsteen, chair of the natural sciences department, Colby-Sawyer College; and Robert A. Steitz, associate commissioner, Atlantic 10 Conference.

Potential candidates are nominated by NCAA member institutions and selected by the committee.

Jack Ford, a co-anchor and correspondent for ABC News "20/20," will serve as the Master of Ceremonies at the Honors Dinner. An attorney, Ford is a regular substitute anchor on "Good Morning America" and "World News Tonight." A 1997 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award recipient, Ford also has been the co-anchor of the "Today" weekend editions and a chief legal correspondent for NBC News, providing legal analysis for "Today," "Dateline NBC" and "NBC Nightly News." His television work has been honored with numerous awards, including an Emmy and the National Headliner Award.

« Back | Campus News | Academic Spotlight | | Subscribe to Bowdoin News by Email