Hillman Library - Woodruff Medal

Woodruff Medal

1936 Berlin Summer Olympics track and field 800-meter gold medalist John Woodruff, a 1939 alumnus of the University of Pittsburgh, donated his gold medal to the university in 1990. Woodruff insisted on it being displayed in the university's library where it would be appreciated not just as an athletic achievement, but in its social and historical context. For years the medal was displayed in an inconspicuous location on the ground floor of Hillman Library. Woodruff's 800 m win in the 1936 games was the first for an African American in front of Adolf Hitler and was achieved in what has been called "the most daring move seen on a track" when he stopped in mid-race in order to break out of a pack of runners and then retook the lead in a sprint to the finish, thereby becoming the first American to achieve gold in 800 m in 24 years. In 2008, the medal was removed for loan to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., where it was part of the exhibit "State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda." After the medal's return to the university, it was placed in a new, six-foot tall wood-and-glass display on the first floor of the library. The display was unveiled during a dedication ceremony on October 14, 2011, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Woodruff's win. The medal, appraised at $250,000, is securely housed under bulletproof glass on a rotating illuminated pedestal. The display also contains interactive multi-media content including a touchscreen that features film narratives, a photo gallery, and selections of the Woodruff family's personal scrapbook.

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