Wilder College of Authorities and Public Affairs at VCU proclaims recipients of 16th Excellence in Virginia Authorities Awards – VCU Information

By David Slipher
L Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

Additional information about the 2023 honorees, luncheon registration and scholarship support information can be found at

This year’s honorees are:

Community Enhancement Award – Drive-To-Work is recognized for its advocacy to assist low-income and/or previously incarcerated persons to restore their driving privileges so they can maintain transportation to suit their job needs.

Founded in 2007, Drive-To-Work was the first organization in Virginia to advocate for helping people to get their license restored through legal and driver education services. The organization recognizes that losing driving privileges is not necessarily due to poor driving but can be a result of enforcing non-driving-related payments, such as civil judgments resulting from motor vehicle accidents and child support payments. Drive-To-Work successfully advocated to establish a new law to prohibit the suspension of a person’s driver’s license due to failure to pay Virginia court fines. The law was passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2019. As a result, more than 525,000 Virginians saw nonpayment of court fees information removed from their driving records, and some had their driving privileges restored.

About the award: The Community Enhancement Award recognizes outstanding commitment to improving the quality of community life in Virginia. An individual, group or government entity may be nominated for this award.

Unung Heroes Award – Rebecca Gwynn is recognized for her commitment to preserve the state’s wildlife and conservation lands for more than 35 years.

Gwynn is the assistant deputy director of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. She has contributed to conservation efforts in major ways over the span of her career. Her accomplishments include championing Virginia’s first wildlife action plan, leading efforts to protect threatened and endangered species and playing a leading role in the development of Virginia’s Watchable Wildlife Program and statewide Virginia Bird and Wildlife Trail. She is most celebrated for her leadership of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Seabird Conservation Initiative. It is a first-of-its-kind seabird colony relocation project in Norfolk and Hampton, Virginia, resulting in the most successful nesting season in the colony’s history.

About the award: The Unsung Heroes Award recognizes an individual who has provided exceptional service as a career employee with local or state government. The recipient must have significant longevity of public service to the state and be a Virginia resident.

Hill Robinson Expansion of Freedom Award – John V. Moeser, Ph.D., will be honored posthumously. He was a longtime educator and scholar on race, government and politics.

A man with gray hair standing with one hand placed on a tree and the other on his hip.  He is wearing a gingham shirt and blue jeans. John V. Moeser, Ph.D., a longtime educator at VCU and University of Richmond, will be the posthumous recipient of the Hill-Robinson Expansion of Freedom Award. (Photo courtesy of the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU)

Moeser was a founding member of the Urban and Regional Studies and Planning program at the Wilder School. Following his 2005 retirement as professor emeritus, he was named a senior fellow of the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond before retiring once again in 2017. He served on many nonprofit boards and task forces focused on addressing racial disparities and poverty. Moeser also served as chair of Richmond’s Human Relations Commission. He co-authored two books, “The Politics of Annexation: Oligarchic Power in a Southern City” and “The Separate City: Black Communities in the Urban South, 1940-1968.”

About the award: Named for two champions of civil rights, Attorney Oliver Hill Sr. and Judge Spottswood Robinson III, this award recognizes a sustained commitment to securing equal rights and justice for all people by empowering residents. An individual may be nominated for this award.

Innovation in Government Award – Henrico County Public Library’s Fairfield Area Library is selected for its innovative, first-of-its-kind “Work and Play Stations.”

On the left is a play pin with a red carpet and a small child laying on the floor.  Next to it on the right is a computer desk where one woman is sitting and another is showing her a paper. Henrico County Public Library’s Fairfield Area Library, which created first-of-its-kind “Work and Play Stations” for parents who use public computers, will receive the Innovation in Government Award. (Photo courtesy of Henrico County Public Library)

The Fairfield Area Library is Henrico County’s newest library. It opened with a unique, custom feature, the innovative “Work and Play Stations” which were developed by HCPL staff with the library’s design team as a solution to a common problem parents and caregivers experience at the library. The solution was the installation of stations available at some computer areas to allow parents or caregivers to use the computer while their child is safe inside an adjoining playpen-like structure. This is especially helpful for people who use public computers to search for jobs or who need to do homework or research and do not have access to childcare.

About the award: The Innovation in Government Award recognizes the recipient’s innovative work that has resulted in increased efficiency, effectiveness or other improvements that affect how a government entity performs in supporting and delivering services to its constituents. An individual, organization or government entity may be nominated for this award.

Public-Private Partnership Award – The Virginia Department of Veterans Services Military Medics and Corpsmen Program is honored for its partnership with hospitals and medical facilities to employ military veterans.

When service members with health care experience and training leave the military, their medical experience and credentials are often not accepted in the civilian workforce. Veterans nationwide face the challenge of being unemployed, underemployed or not afforded the opportunity to work in the health care field until they earn new credentials. In Virginia, MMAC addresses this challenge by recruiting, reviewing and referring MMAC applicants to MMAC partner health care employers throughout the state. Through wide-ranging public and private partnerships, MMAC offers career and educational pathways to military veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses seeking careers and credentialing in Virginia’s health care system.

About the award: The Public-Private Partnership Award recognizes the recipient’s inventive creation or maintenance of a successful public-private partnership that has delivered a measurable improvement in public service resulting in lower cost, improved quality or greater efficiency for residents. An individual, business, local or state government agency or other entity may be nominated.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Charles S. Robb, a former United States senator and the 64th governor of Virginia, is recognized for his significant contributions to public service to the people of the state and the country.

A United States Marine Corps veteran, Robb served in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Star. After his military career, Robb earned his Juris Doctorate and later became interested in politics. He was elected lieutenant governor of Virginia, serving from 1978 to 1982, and then served as Virginia’s 64th governor from 1982 to 1986. During his tenure, the state increased education spending, and the port of Hampton Roads became the fastest-growing port in the nation. Robb then was elected to serve in the US Senate from 1989 to 2001. While in the Senate, he became the first member to serve simultaneously on all three national security committees (Intelligence, Armed Services and Foreign Relations). He also sat on the Finance, Commerce and Budget Committees. Following public service, Robb joined the faculty at George Mason University as a distinguished professor of law and public policy. He has also served as chair of the Board of Visitors at the United States Naval Academy.

About the award: The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an individual whose career represents the highest values ​​of public service and citizenship and who has made a substantial contribution to the good of the state. The recipient must be an individual whose personal or professional contributions span a minimum of 20 years and be a Virginia resident.

A Black Woman wearing a black and white sports coat, a white button up shirt, and gold hoop earrings. Angela Patton, CEO of Girls For A Change, will receive the Grace E. Harris Leadership Award. (Photo courtesy of Angela Patton)

Grace E Harris Leadership Award – Angela Patton, CEO of Girls For A Change, is selected for her selfless commitment to preparing Black girls for the world and the world for Black girls.

Girls For A Change has been serving self-identifying Black girls for nearly 20 years since 2004 and is one of the first organizations in the country that has centered Black girls – unapologetically – since its inception. Through GFAC programs, not only do girls create change by engaging in social change projects, but in the process, they learn problem-solving skills, as well as what it means to change policy and create movements. GFAC programs also focus on leadership skills, goal-planning, financial literacy, building a network, exposure, community engagement, skill-building, sisterhood building and socio-emotional learning among other things. Through experiential learning and consistent exposure, GFAC ensures girls are ahead of the learning curve, breaking cycles and closing opportunity gaps. Patton’s goal is to give every girl who aspires to get ahead a chance to be seen, heard and celebrated. Patton is a co-author of “Finding Her Voice: How Black Girls in White Spaces Can Speak Up and Live Their Truth,” has been recognized by Style Weekly’s Top 40 Under 40 (2010), recognized by President Barack Obama as a White House Champion of Change (2016), received the Nonprofit Partner of the Year (2018) from the Metropolitan Business League, was a Richmond Times-Dispatch 2019 Person of the Year Honoree and the 2022 TIAW World of Difference Award. This year, Girls For A Change was honored with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Award at the MLK Drum Major Awards & Celebration at Fifth Street Baptist Church in Richmond.

About the award: The Grace E. Harris Leadership Award is named after the late Grace E. Harris, Ph.D., a trailblazer who broke down many barriers as an African American woman and whose vision and leadership had tremendous impacts at VCU, within the community and beyond . This award recognizes an individual who has made a discernible, sustainable positive impact on the quality of life in Virginia through public service.

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