Faculty and Staff features for February 2018

L. Douglas Wilder, distinguished professor, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder.
L. Douglas Wilder.

Wilder, Virginia’s 66th governor, will receive the American Society for Public Administration Gloria Hobson Nordin Social Equity Award at ASPA’s upcoming annual conference in Denver.

Wilder will be honored for lifetime achievements in the advancement of social equity and will be recognized for his outstanding contributions to public service at an awards luncheon on Sunday, March 11.  

William P. Shields Jr., ASPA’s executive director, said Wilder is the embodiment of the ideals for which the award was created 16 years ago.

“The impact of his efforts to create a more equitable and just society has been felt in every single Virginia neighborhood he served,” Shields said. “The consistency of his efforts includes levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and academia. The duration of his efforts spans generations, creating a legacy that even more generations will celebrate for years to come.

“They include the students who attend the school that bears his name and call him professor, mentor and friend. Through their work — and his own, which continues with tenacity and resolve — we know that public service is truly a noble calling. For showing us the way, there is no more fitting recipient for this recognition than Governor Wilder,” Shields said.

Wilder’s achievements have been many throughout his career. He was the first African-American elected governor in the nation, serving in Virginia’s highest office from 1990 to 1994. 

During his term, he was commended for his sound fiscal management and balancing the state budget during difficult economic times. Financial World ranked Virginia as the Best Managed State in the U.S. for two consecutive years under his administration.

Before becoming governor, he served as lieutenant governor from 1986 to 1990 and as a state senator from 1969 to 1985, representing his hometown of Richmond, chairing committees on Transportation; Rehabilitation and Social Services; Privileges and Elections; the Virginia Advisory Legislative Council; and the Senate Steering Committee, which appoints committee members. 

His numerous legislative accomplishments include providing state health care coverage for sickle cell anemia patients, toughening penalties for capital murderers and prison escapees, and expanding low- and moderate-income housing. For eight years, he persisted in sponsoring legislation that eventually led to establishing a state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr., making Virginia the first state in the nation to have a legislative holiday for King.

Wilder was the first popularly elected mayor of Richmond in nearly a half-century, serving from 2005 to 2009. During his term, Richmond made remarkable progress in its fight against crime, having its lowest rate in 27 years. Downtown economic development and neighborhood improvements were widespread, and financial management reached a new level of scrutiny that served taxpayers well.

An attorney by profession, Wilder gained recognition as a leading criminal trial lawyer. He graduated from Howard University Law School in 1959 and later established the legal firm that became known as Wilder, Gregory & Associates, one of the few minority-owned businesses in Virginia at the time. Prior to earning his J.D., he graduated from Virginia Union University with a B.S. degree in chemistry.

He also is the driving force for establishing a National Slavery Museum. His 2015 autobiography, “Son of Virginia: A Life in America’s Political Arena,” captures his remarkable story.

“We are proud to bear the name of the person who has achieved this honor, L. Douglas Wilder,” said Wilder School Dean John Accordino, Ph.D. “Governor Wilder has dedicated his career to promoting fairness, justice and equity in the formation of public policy at all levels of government. His commitment to social equity is unwavering.”



Patrick Lowery, Ph.D., assistant professor, Criminal Justice, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

Patrick Lowery, Ph.D.
Patrick Lowery, Ph.D.

Lowery will receive the SAGE Junior Faculty Professional Development Teaching Award during the annual meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

The honor recognizes untenured, junior scholars who have taught less than five years and earned a terminal graduate degree less than five years ago. The 2018 annual meeting will take place in New Orleans from Feb. 13-17.

ACJS is an international association established in 1963 to foster professional and scholarly activities in the field of criminal justice. ACJS promotes criminal justice education, research and policy analysis for educators and practitioners.

Lowery joined the Wilder School faculty in 2016. His research focuses primarily on socio-legal studies and the intersection of race and poverty in the juvenile justice system.

“Patrick Lowery has been an excellent addition to the Wilder School, as a new, young faculty member who teaches and does research on issues crucial for our students and the public at large,” said Jay S. Albanese, Ph.D., professor and Criminal Justice chair. “This recognition shows his interest and promise in developing further as a teacher and scholar.”


Colin Banas, M.D., chief medical information officer, VCU Medical Center

Banas was named 2018 Physician Executive Leader of the Year by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems. The award recognizes a physician leader who demonstrates significant leadership in optimizing health engagements and care outcomes through information technology. Recipients are selected jointly by the affirming organizations’ boards of directors.

Colin Banas, M.D.
Colin Banas, M.D.

Banas, who has been in his current position for eight years, started at VCU in the Department of Internal Medicine as a resident in 2002. Receiving this award is a compliment to both his medical and technology passions, he said.

“The best part of my job is when we are able to implement something to make patient and clinician lives better,” he said. “I still practice medicine, so when we hit a home run with technology and patient care it feels really good.”

In 2013 Banas testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance at a hearing on “Health Information Technology: Using it to Improve Care.” The following year, Banas was chosen as a Health IT Fellow by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He was one of 15 providers and administrators chosen for the national honor.

His most recent recognition is humbling, he said, because it comes from those with whom he works.

“I am a very active member in the HIMSS and AMDIS communities and this really represents recognition from peers that I deeply respect,” he said. “It’s a tight-knit community, so it really meant a lot to me.”


Robert L. Balster, Ph.D., Butler Professor of pharmacology and toxicology, School of Medicine; research professor of psychology and psychiatry, College of Humanities and Sciences

Robert L. Balster, Ph.D.
Robert L. Balster, Ph.D.

Balster is the recipient of the 2018 P.B. Dews Lifetime Achievement Award for Research in Behavioral Pharmacology, awarded by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

He was nominated for the award by Katherine Nicholson, D.V.M, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Balster joined the VCU faculty in 1973 and has greatly advanced the field of substance abuse research. He is the co-founder and co-director of the International Programme in Addiction Studies and associate coordinator of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program in Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Policy. He also co-founded the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products at VCU.

Balster will receive the award at the ASPET Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2018 in San Diego in April.