VCU announces recipients of 13th annual Excellence in Virginia Government Awards

Share this story

The L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University on Monday announced seven honorees who will be recognized at the 13th Excellence in Virginia Government Awards.

The awards, the signature program of the Wilder School, honor individuals and organizations who have made noteworthy contributions to the practice of government and the betterment of the state. Recipients will be honored at a luncheon April 11 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Richmond Marriott, 500 E. Broad St.

This year’s honorees include:

  •  Joe Vass, 91, who serves as the inventory and supply officer for the Virginia Division of Capitol Police, has a 75-year record of public service. Vass has served in every branch of the U.S. military, in the Henrico County Police Division, as security chief for the University of Richmond and Richmond International Airport, and as police chief for the city of Poquoson and town of Boykins.
  •  Grace E. Harris, Ph.D., the first African-American woman to serve as the chief academic officer at a four-year public university in Virginia. Harris, who spent 48 years at VCU, died in 2018 at 84.
  •  Goochland County’s Central High School Committee, which was formed by the Goochland County Board of Supervisors in 2013 to help determine the future of Goochland’s Central High School.
  •  The Virginia Home, a private, nonprofit 130-bed facility in Richmond whose mission is to provide compassionate and professional residential care to adult Virginians with irreversible physical disabilities regardless of their ability to pay.
  •  Equality Virginia, which for the past 30 years has been a leading advocacy organization in Virginia seeking equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
  •  The Virginia Department of the Treasury, for its work with Qlarion to develop a data analytics system.
  •  The Virginia Department of Corrections, in recognition of its career training program partnerships with Johnson Controls and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at James River.

Vass will receive the Unsung Heroes Award at the event. Harris will be honored posthumously with an award for lifetime achievement. Goochland’s Central High School Committee and the Virginia Home will both receive the Community Enhancement Award. Equality Virginia will receive the Hill-Robinson Expansion of Freedom Award. The Department of the Treasury will receive the Innovation in Government Award. And the Department of Corrections will receive the Public-Private Partnership Award.

For more information on this year’s honorees, visit:

“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. “This year's recipients have made astounding impacts for our communities and 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 and Union Bank & Trust are the event’s 2019 Title Sponsors.

To register, visit: or contact Shirley McDaniel at (804) 827-0867 or