O'Neil was the first recipient of the award, which is given out no more frequently than every three years, in 2008. Longtime Major League Baseball executive Roland Hemond won the award in 2011, followed by former big league catcher and announcer Joe Garagiola Sr. in 2014.
Robinson worked with her husband during their marriage and after his death in 1972 to create the Jackie Robinson Development Corporation, which helps build and manage housing for moderate and low-income citizens. Shortly after Jackie's passing, she formed the Foundation in his honor to provide college scholarships and leadership training. She served as the head of the Foundation's board of directors before stepping down in 1996.
"Rachel Robinson has worked tirelessly to raise the level of equality not only in baseball, but throughout society," Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said in a statement. "Through her grace, dignity and unsurpassed spirit, she continues to show the value, decency and importance of inclusiveness. She personifies the strength and character of Buck O'Neil, and on behalf of our board of directors, we are very happy and honored to bestow upon her this prestigious award."
Robinson was born in Los Angeles on July 19, 1922, and she married Jackie on Feb. 10, 1946, as he prepared for his inaugural season in organized baseball. She played a major role in helping her husband overcome the extreme hurdles he endured as the first African-American to appear in a modern-day Major League game on April 15, 1947.
Robinson earned a master's degree in psychiatric nursing from New York University in 1956 and earned the job as the director of nursing for the Connecticut Mental Health Center. She worked as a nurse and researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and as an assistant professor of nursing at Yale University. She has been awarded honorary doctorates from a number of colleges and universities for her efforts in medicine.
The mother of Jack Jr., David and Sharon, Robinson penned the book "Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait" in 1996. She endorsed the league's decision to retire her husband's No. 42 throughout professional baseball in '97 and contributed to the recasting of his Hall of Fame plaque as a way to emphasize his groundbreaking impact on the game.
"I am honored that the Hall of Fame has invited me to receive the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award," Robinson said. "Buck O'Neil was such a champion of baseball -- and the Hall of Fame does an extraordinary job of recognizing individuals who have committed their lives to this great game. I commend Jane Forbes Clark and Jeff Idelson for their leadership and extend my gratitude to the board of directors for recognizing me in this way."
The honor will be presented to Robinson in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 29, as a portion of Hall of Fame Weekend 2017.