VCU announces recipients of 14th Excellence in Virginia Government Awards

vcuThe L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University has announced seven honorees who will be recognized at the 14th Excellence in Virginia Government Awards.

The awards, a signature program of the Wilder School, honor individuals and organizations that have made noteworthy contributions to the practice of government and the betterment of the state.

Recipients will be honored at a luncheon April 15 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Richmond Marriott, 500 E. Broad St.

This year’s honorees include:

  • Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Scott has spent more than four decades in public service. Before being elected to Congress in 1992, Scott served for 15 years in Virginia’s General Assembly in both the House of Delegates and Senate. Currently the longest serving of Virginia’s congressional delegation, Scott serves as chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor. The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a Virginian whose career represents the highest values of public service and citizenship and who has made a substantial contribution to the good of the commonwealth.
  • John C. Purnell Jr. will receive the Grace E. Harris Leadership Award. Purnell spent 40 years as executive director of the FRIENDS Association for Children, where he worked to ensure that at-risk children and families, primarily African American, would grow into productive members of society. The Grace E. Harris Leadership Award, new in 2020, 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 commonwealth and the community.
  • A.E. Dick Howard, the architect of Virginia’s modern-day constitution, will receive the Hill-Robinson Expansion of Freedom Award. Fifty years ago, Virginia voters resoundingly endorsed a new state constitution, one that enshrined hard-won civil rights protections and voting rights, and committed the state to educational equality.
  • Cristina Ramirez of Henrico County will receive the Unsung Heroes Award. Ramirez is an academic, an advocate and an expert on diversity, equity and inclusion. As a librarian in Henrico County, Ramirez develops and delivers services and programs to promote literacy and writing among Latino youth.
  • The Department of Juvenile Justice will receive the Innovation in Government Award for its Transformation Plan that is touching nearly every aspect of the agency’s operations and has yielded dramatic gains and positive outcomes for youth and families served.
  • The Virginia Housing Development Authority will receive the Public-Private Partnership Award. VHDA is a public-private organization established by Virginia’s General Assembly in 1972 to help all Virginians attain quality, affordable housing. VHDA fulfills its mission by partnering with the greater housing community to offer programs, products, services and expertise that address the evolving spectrum of homeownership, rental and supportive housing needs.
  • Health Brigade, formerly known as the Fan Free Clinic, will receive the Community Enhancement Award.  Health Brigade is celebrating 50 years of providing primary medical care, mental health and wellness services, and HIV/STI testing to those least served in Richmond and 22 surrounding counties.

“These awards recognize outstanding work at all levels of government in Virginia and honor dedicated public service, innovative approaches and commitment to excellence,” said Susan T. Gooden, Ph.D., interim dean of the Wilder School. “Our 2020 recipients have made tremendous impacts in their communities and across the commonwealth.”

Tickets for the luncheon are $75 per person, and sponsorship opportunities are available. Proceeds from the event help fund scholarships for Wilder School students. Dominion Energy is the event’s 2020 Title Sponsor.

For more information, visit: or contact Katie Huynh at (804) 827-0867 or

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