Yale continued its tradition of service this month by honoring five Yale alums for their dedication to the University community.

The Association of Yale Alumni has announced that it will award the Yale Medal — the organization’s highest award — to Sherry Agar ’82, Edward Bass ’67 ARC ’72, Marv Berenblum ’56, Michael Madison ’83 and John M. R. Thomas ’80 for their exceptional involvement on campus.

“I’m exhilarated, but another word is surprised,” Berenblum said. “I really wasn’t expecting it. I was focusing on doing all these things I enjoy that were Yale-related. The intrinsic value is enough without being rewarded.”

Since its inception in 1952, 298 alumni and volunteers of the University have been awarded the Yale Medal. According to the AYA, the only criterion for the award is that the recipients must demonstrate outstanding service to Yale and be able to accept the award in person. Up to five awards may be granted each year.

Letters of solicitation are sent to groups and other important leaders in the alumni association each year to create a list of nominees, from which the Yale Medal Committee makes its selections every April.

Several prize recipients stressed the importance of giving back to the Yale community — a value that is reflected in their accomplishments. Berenblum and Madison have both launched initiatives within the AYA. Berenblum saw the successful planning of the Yale Alumni College, a program that organizes educational and social events for alumni, and Madison helped initiate the “Ambassadors in Action” strategic plan, which aims to increase alumni participation in leadership, volunteering and engagement at Yale.

Bass has served as a senior fellow on the Yale Corporation, as well as chairing the Corporation’s Development and Alumni Affairs Committee. Agar served as president of the Yale Alumni Chorus Foundation and has also been active in enriching Yale’s music programs. Thomas currently serves as the chair of the Alumni Fund.

In addition to these AYA-related contributions, the alumni have also given back to the Yale community by helping with fundraising and serving on various boards within the University.

“One of the things that is truly extraordinary is Yale’s commitment to getting students the financial aid they needed and financial aid that won’t burden them,” Thomas said. “It gives students greater freedom and that’s a great thing. People in my age group are very responsive to making that happen. It’s in everybody’s best interests … Yale isn’t just a tower of privilege.”

Thomas added that the award is a remarkable recognition and that after working with alumni to give back to the school for many years, it is “a little shocking when you realize you’re on your 30th year reunion.”

The desire to give back to the University, according to several of the prize recipients, is also founded in the positive experiences that they had while at Yale.

Many noted that the friendships forged at Yale have been an important part of their lives after graduation.

“I’m what you call a lifer,” Berenblum. “In all respects I feel that those were truly my formative years where I became the person I am today. All of these opportunities have just been a tremendous experience.”

The five Yale Medal recipients will be honored with their awards at the annual AYA Assembly in November.