The Medal was first awarded in 1984 when the medallion went to UC Irvine's founding Chancellor, Daniel G. Aldrich, Jr. It was the beginning of a tradition – started by then-Chancellor Jack W. Peltason – giving formal and lifelong recognition to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to UC Irvine's mission, spirit and vision.
The Medal is the highest honor the university bestows, and with each presentation it has taken on the prestige of those who receive it. Former medalists include Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, authors, inventors, captains of industry, scientists and pioneers in virtually every field of endeavor. They have challenged our intellects, elevated our spirits and opened doors for UC Irvine that have led the campus into the distinguished ranks of America's top-tier public research universities.