The SCS Board of Directors established the Association's Distinguished Service Awards in September 1984. The minutes of that meeting state.
"The Directors voted to establish a Medal for Distinguished Service, to be given from time to time at the discretion of the Board of Directors, and to award the medal for the first time this year."
The Awards acknowledge extraordinary service to the profession of classics and the Society for Classical Studies. They are occasional rather than annual awards. Any member of the Association may submit a recommendation; nominations are made by a Director at a meeting of the Board, and approved by the Board as a whole. Recipients to date of Distinguished Service Awards are:
- 1984 - Phyllis Gordan for her service to the Association as Director and Financial Trustee and for her work on Renaissance manuscripts
- 1987 - David Packard and Theodore Brunner for their work on the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae
- 1996 - Helen North and Bernard M. W. Knox for many contributions to both the Association and the field in general
- 1999 - Dee L. Clayman for her work on the Database of Classical Bibliography; Marianne McDonald for her work on the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae; Richard J. A. Talbert for his work on the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World
- 2007 - Roger S. Bagnall for outstanding administration of both the Association and other classics institutions and for leadership in the field of papyrology; Elaine Fantham for a wide range of excellent scholarship and teaching in Latin literature and for many contributions to the work of the Association
- 2008 - Barbara F. McManus for many contributions to the Association and to the field, particularly through pioneering uses of new technologies.
- 2009 - Richard Hamilton for the creation of Bryn Mawr Commentaries and BMCR.
- 2012 - Ward W. Briggs, Jr., David H. Porter, and Michael C. J. Putnam for many contributions to the field and to the Association, including their leadership during the Gatekeeper to Gateway Campaign for Classics.
- 2013 - Ladislaus J. Bolchazy for his tremendous impact on the field of classics through publishing
- 2016 - Adam D. Blistein for his service as Executive Director of the SCS and Donald J. Mastronarde for wide and deep contributions to scholarship, teaching, and the SCS