Western Michigan University’s Medallion Scholarship Program was established in 1983 with its first stipends awarded in 1984. The program was a vision of J. Michael Kemp (1944-2003), University Trustee Emeritus. Kemp believed it was equally important to recruit academic scholars to compete in scholarship and academic recognition as it was to recruit athletes to compete in athletic competition. He additionally felt through the creation of a scholarship based exclusively on academic merit and ability the best and brightest of high school students would be attracted to the University and continue to give Western a strong academic reputation.
In 1984, fifteen Michigan high school seniors came to campus in order to compete for the first Medallion Scholarships. Since then, about $80 million in four-year scholarships have been offered to more than 15,000 students through this scholarship program. The Medallion Scholarship alone has been offered to 443 students amounting over $9 million. These awards have been made possible through the generosity of alumni, friends, foundations, corporations and other organizations. WMU’s Medallion Scholarship is the highest merit-based scholarship offered at the University, and is among the largest merit-based scholarship programs in American higher education. Each Medallion Scholarship is valued at $50,000 across four years ($12,500 per year).
The Medallion Scholarship Program has had a significant impact on Western Michigan University. Approximately 50 percent of all students who participate in the yearly competition enroll at WMU. This program has also been credited in playing a significant role in increasing the academic quality of enrolling students, therefore achieving one of J. Michael Kemp’s ultimate goals.