Big Ten Medal of Honor Q&A: George Foussianes (1980)

March 27, 2014

Big Ten Medal of Honor 100th Anniversary
Michigan's Big Ten Medal of Honor Recipients

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, the Michigan Athletic Department will be profiling some distinguished student-athlete alumni who received this prestigious academic and athletic honor.

George Foussianes was a four-year letterman for the University of Michigan baseball team, winning first team All-Big Ten honors in 1979 and 1980 and third team All-America honors in 1980. Foussianes excelled on the diamond for the Wolverines, leading the team with a .369 batting average in 1979 as well as earning the Ray Fisher Award, given to the Maize and Blue's Most Valuable Player. He also enjoyed plenty of team success during his time in Ann Arbor, as a key member of the 1978 and 1980 teams that won Big Ten championships and advanced to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. After concluding his four years in Ann Arbor, which also included receiving the 1980 Big Ten Medal of Honor and an Academic All-Big Ten selection, Foussianes was drafted by the Detroit Tigers and played professionally for six years with the Tigers, Royals and Rangers organizations. He is currently a Managing Director for Investment Banking at J.P. Morgan in New York.

Big Ten Medal of Honor badge

George Foussianes

Left Quotes
I believe that many of the doors that have opened for me since then, even to this day, can be traced back to the opportunities that I was given as a walk-on baseball player at Michigan in the fall of 1976.
Right Quotes

George Foussianes

Q
What was your best or favorite memory from your time at Michigan?
spacer
A
chevron
There were so many that it's hard to pinpoint one. I think most often of my teammates and my coaches. For many of us at that age, during the formative years when we start to grow up and make important decisions around our lives, our teammates and coaches can have a tremendous impact on us. The work ethic, the high levels of integrity and other lessons learned during that time have had a lasting impact on me. Those are the things that will stay with me forever.
 
Q
What was the best lesson that you learned from an athletic standpoint at Michigan?
spacer
A
chevron
I would say that it would be the value of persistence and of preparation. Those of course translate from athletics to academics to my current career. I can still remember a sign hanging in the old M locker room at Fisher Stadium that said, "The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win." I think that is true throughout life. My wife and I have a 10-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter, and we hope that they learn these values and how they apply to anything that they choose to do.
 
Q
What was the greatest lesson that you learned academically at Michigan?
spacer
A
chevron
You could relate it to my earlier comment, when I first learned those lessons and began to put them into practice as a freshman athlete at Michigan, I realized that they also translate into academics and real life. Those were part and parcel to my development back then and have directly impacted the person that I am today.

Q
How did your Michigan experience prepare you for life after college?
spacer
A
chevron
I was fortunate to have had a great academic and athletic experience at Michigan, and the six years that I spent in professional baseball after that were fun and gratifying. More importantly, though, I benefited directly from my Michigan athletic and academic experience in many ways well beyond athletics. My BBA provided the groundwork for my Wall Street career, and the alumni network and the reputation of the university create opportunities for me even today. Those things were "differentiators" for me when it came to my professional career.

I also need to say something about my favorite coach, Moby Benedict (Moby was my coach during my first three years at Michigan). He tried to simplify things for us as athletes and as students. He used to say, "Never forget how you got where you got." That is powerful thinking in my opinion. Especially after I left Michigan, played professional baseball, moved to New York City to do what I've done for a career. It really helps keep us grounded, and it helps make us appreciate what I have.
 
Q
What is the most common thing that goes through your mind when you look back at your Michigan career?
spacer
A
chevron
Gratitude. No question its gratitude -- for being able to attend Michigan as a student-athlete and for all the opportunities that I had while in Ann Arbor, academic and otherwise. I believe that many of the doors that have opened for me since then, even to this day, can be traced back to the opportunities that I was given as a walk-on baseball player at Michigan in the fall of 1976. I was lucky.
 
Q
What did it mean to receive the Big Ten Medal of Honor? Do you remember when you received it?
spacer
A
chevron
I do remember that moment. Someone just came up and told me that I was receiving the honor (there was no award ceremony back then, at least not that I can remember). I had only been vaguely aware of the award before that time. When I realized that the award was given to one student-athlete per year, I felt very honored and felt a great sense of responsibility to the university, the athletic program and to my team. My professors, coaches and teammates are the reasons that I had a notable athletic and academic career at Michigan.
 
Q
Does the award have any greater meaning to you today, knowing the equal balance it has for academics and athletics?
spacer
A
chevron
I think as we grow older and mature, we sometimes have a greater appreciation for the awards that we received in the past. Of all the achievements that I've had in athletics, and I was fortunate to have received many, both as an amateur and professional, an award like the Big Ten Medal of Honor speaks more directly to what I stand for, which is balance - whatever one does, do it well. I'm most proud of that award because it does speak to balance and an ability to transcend across the athletic and academic disciplines.


• Previous Q&A: Diane Dietz


Sign up for Michigan Insider to be the first to learn about 2015 Michigan baseball ticket opportunities.

   

    Credit Card
    Photo Store