The medals are given for outstanding leadership in the development of UArctic. The first three recipients have all had an influential role in UArctic over the years.

Asgeir Brekke, Professor Emeritus of UiT The Arctic University of Norway, led the Interim Council of UArctic - the main decision-making body of the network - before the official launch in 2001. The Interim Council planned the main governance structures and initial activities for UArctic, and according to President Kullerud, Asgeir Brekke showed outstanding leadership and courage in leading this work. 

Outi Snellman, Head of the UArctic International Secretariat at the University of Lapland, received the medal in recognition for her work on the feasibility study that led to the establishment of UArctic, and for her work as the Head of Secretariat. President Kullerud called this recognition the "sisu award"; an award for persistence, leadership and hard work, moving UArctic from idea to fruition and through a number of organizational changes over the years. 

The third medal was awarded posthumously to Aron Senkpiel, former Dean of Academic Studies at Yukon College (now Yukon University). Together with Outi Snellman and Bill Heal, he planned the feasibility study and provided advice on how to get the Indigenous peoples' organizations on board, and how to avoid possible power struggles in the early planning stages. His wisdom and leadership were of fundamental importance in the early creation of UArctic, President Kullerud said.

The recognitions were announced as part of the UArctic Founders roundtable event in Reykjavík, Iceland on October 12.