VCU Police Officer Ellsworth “Sonny” Pryor receives the 2016 Governor’s Public Service Award on May 12. From left: Chris Shockley, executive vice president of the Virginia Credit Union; Ric Brown, secretary of finance for Virginia; VCU Police Officer Ellsworth “Sonny” Pryor; Nancy Rodrigues, secretary of administration for Virginia.

VCU Police officer, alumna honored with Governor’s Public Service Awards

Share this story

For the second consecutive year, a Virginia Commonwealth University employee has been honored by Gov. Terry McAuliffe for outstanding service to the commonwealth.

On May 12, VCU Police Department Officer Ellsworth “Sonny” Pryor was recognized at the governor’s mansion with the Governor’s Workplace Health, Wellness and Safety Award. The award was one of seven Governor’s Public Service Awards given to state employees. Among the other recipients was Velma Ballard, who recently earned a Ph.D. in public policy and administration from the VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Ballard was honored with the Governor’s Career Achievement Award.

I am so pleased to honor these men and women for their outstanding work in public service to the citizens of our commonwealth.

“I am so pleased to honor these men and women for their outstanding work in public service to the citizens of our commonwealth,” McAuliffe said. “These individuals and their colleagues in our state workforce are committed to excellence, and they represent the backbone of our state government. These awards demonstrate the values that guide our workforce every day as our state employees provide the highest quality customer service, innovation, teamwork and community service.” 

Earlier this year, Pryor saved a woman’s life while on patrol at VCU Medical Center. The woman fell to the floor in full cardiac arrest inside the hospital. Pryor was outside when he heard the call for an unresponsive female over his police radio.

He quickly made it to the woman’s side and discovered she had no pulse. He administered CPR and automated external defibrillator treatments that restored her cardiac rhythm. After receiving further treatment at VCU Medical Center, the woman was awake and talking three days later.

Pryor was honored for his timely response and lifesaving emergency care as well as for past lifesaving efforts in the VCU Police jurisdiction.

Pryor has served as a VCUPD officer since 2005 and has responded to numerous medical crises while on duty. He’s a nationally registered, state-certified EMT and teaches tactical first aid and CPR to VCU Police Academy recruits. He’s also a basic life support instructor for the American Heart Association and is a tactical combat casualty care instructor for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.

Ballard has enjoyed a career spanning more than 38 years in government, starting after high school with a position as a dispatcher for the city of Emporia. Subsequent posts have included corrections officer, employee relations and human resources manager at two corrections facilities, and human resources director and the first-ever associate director of administration at the Department of Housing and Community Development. She has been consulted by managers in other agencies for her knowledge of state government systems and her problem-solving abilities.

“Ms. Ballard has broken many barriers for women, and African-American women, in public safety and other areas,” according to the governor’s office. “She is a role model, moving up the state career ladder when opportunities for women were limited.”

In 2015, Terrence Walker, an administrative assistant at VCU’s University Counseling Services, was honored with the Governor’s Public Service Award for his role in creating RamPantry, a VCU food pantry for students struggling with food insecurity.     

The commonwealth and the Virginia Credit Union have partnered on the Governor’s Awards for Public Service since their inception.


Subscribe for free to the weekly VCU News email newsletter at and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Thursday.