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VHS honors nine for significant contributions to museum, its mission

The ceremony recognized those making significant contributions to research, education, and the mission of the museum.

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At a luncheon on July 13th, the Virginia Historical Society presented awards to nine individuals who have made significant contributions to research, education, and the mission of the museum.

Samuel Lichtman, a student at George H. Moody Middle School in Henrico County, was presented the Anne R. Worrell Middle School Student Award. This award is given to a student who exemplifies distinction in historical research and scholarship in middle school. The award is named in honor of Charlottesville resident Anne Worrell, a former member of the board of trustees, current honorary vice chairman, and long-time VHS supporter. For his project, Sam researched and developed a website on the cultural exchange between Virginia Indians and the English settlers at Jamestown and other early seventeenth-century Virginia settlements. In the process, he interviewed historians and museum professionals. His bibliography lists a number of primary sources, including early accounts by John Smith, Gabriel Archer, and William Strachey.

The Bobby Chandler High School Student Award was presented to Kelsey Vita, a student at Rockbridge County High School. Made possible by the Kip Kephart Foundation, this award is given to a secondary school student who demonstrates intelligence, creativity, and research skills using primary source materials. Kelsey received the award for her AP Government class paper, “The Marshall Court’s Establishment of a Strong Central Government.”  In her paper, Kelsey analyzed a number of cases, including Marbury v. MadisonMcCulloch v. MarylandCohens v. Virginia, and Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, to explore the establishment and expansion of the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review.

Kathryn K. M. Hershberger, a sixth-grade teacher at George H. Moody Middle School, was presented with the Brenton S. Halsey Teaching Excellence Award. This award alternates annually between elementary and secondary school teachers. Ms. Hershberger is a mentor, trainer, and leader at her school. This year, she started a National History Day club at Moody, and two of her students participated at the state finals. She loves history and in her spare time works as a historical interpreter at Henricus Historical Park. According to Ms. Hershberger’s supervisor, “her passion for history and for teaching is reflected in everything she does.” The social studies specialist for Henrico County adds that she turns “sixth-grade students into historians.”

The William M. E. Rachal Award was presented to Dr. Jeff Broadwater, a professor of history in the School of Humanities at Barton College. Honoring the long-time editor of the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, the Rachal Award was established in 1985 to recognize the overall best article to appear in the journal. This year, the committee gave the award to Dr. Broadwater for his article entitled “James Madison and the Constitution: Reassessing the ‘Madison Problem,’” which appeared in volume 123, number 3, of the Virginia Magazine. The prize committee commented, “we thought [the article] was beautifully written, persuasively argued, and significantly added to our understanding of that complex political thinker.”

The Richard Slatten Award for Excellence in Virginia Biography was presented to Diane Kiesel for her book, She Will Bring Us Home: Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, Civil Rights Pioneer. In 1998, the estate of Kathleen Littlejohn Slatten made a generous bequest, in memory of her son, to The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia. In 2012, family friend Edgar MacDonald established the Slatten-MacDonald Fund at the Community Foundation to complement the support the Society receives from the Richard Slatten Endowment for Virginia History. In partnership with the careful stewardship of The Community Foundation, the award encourages and recognizes distinguished contributions to Virginia biography. Ms. Kiesel is an acting New York State Supreme Court Justice, presiding over domestic violence cases in the Bronx County criminal term. In She Can Bring Us Home, she examines the life and accomplishments of an under-appreciated champion for women’s advocacy and racial justice. Often poignant, the book chronicles the life of a woman who made choices that sacrificed personal happiness for her profession and life’s passion: civil rights.

The Patricia Rodman and Martin Kirwan King Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Maryan Smith. Named in honor of Tish and Martin King, the volunteer of the year award was established in 1994. Ms. Smith has been a VHS volunteer since 2007, when she and her mother donated the business collection of her father, Verlin W. Smith Sr., to the newly opened Reynolds Center for Virginia Business History. As a lifelong resident of Fairfax County, she has utilized her personal and professional connections to help the VHS fulfill its mission in northern Virginia. In 2015 she established the VHS/George Mason University History Department NoVA Banner Lecture Series. Ms. Smith is also facilitating the identification and capture of oral histories and private collections in the northern counties.

Three VHS employees were presented the 2015 President’s Award for Excellence: Caroline Legros, School Program Coordinator; Elaine McFadden, Senior Grants Officer; and Laura Stoner, Associate Archivist for Business Collections. The President’s Award for Excellence is given for outstanding performance and special achievement. The recipients were nominated by their VHS peers.

“History has always been one of mankind’s greatest tools,” said board chairman and interim President and CEO of the VHS John R. Nelson. “It humbles us, inspires us, helps us understand the present, and provides the key to the future. Above all, history is meant to be shared. The individuals here today understand that. Whether through research, writing, teaching, or volunteering, they have helped bring history to others in new and exciting ways.”

John R. Nelson concluded the luncheon by remarking: “These individuals have produced outstanding work that reflects the mission of the VHS. The VHS could not accomplish its goal of linking past with present and inspiring future generations without the passion and dedication of the people we recognized today.”

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Youngkin pledges to pull Virginia from carbon market by executive order

Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin is pledging to use executive action to pull Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon market involving 10 other Mid-Atlantic and New England states. 

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Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin is pledging to use executive action to pull Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon market involving 10 other Mid-Atlantic and New England states. 

“RGGI describes itself as a regional market for carbon, but it is really a carbon tax that is fully passed on to ratepayers. It’s a bad deal for Virginians. It’s a bad deal for Virginia businesses,” Youngkin told the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce Wednesday. “I promised to lower the cost of living in Virginia and this is just the beginning.”

A transition aide for Youngkin said that because Virginia’s participation in RGGI is governed by a contract agreement signed by the Department of Environmental Quality, the governor can withdraw Virginia from that agreement by executive action. 

However, Cale Jaffe, director of the University of Virginia School of Law’s Environmental Law and Community Engagement Clinic, said Youngkin can’t do that by executive order because of the way state laws authorizing participation are written. 

“The (State Air Pollution Control) Board has promulgated regulation to join RGGI,” said Jaffe. “No governor can issue an executive order to just undo a duly promulgated regulation.” 

Youngkin’s pledge comes less than a week after Virginia completed its first full cycle of quarterly carbon auctions, from which it netted $228 million earmarked by law for flood protection and low-income energy efficiency programs. 

Earlier this week, Dominion Energy filed an application to update the charges it will pass onto customers for RGGI participation, which are expected to increase the average residential customer’s monthly bill by $4.37 beginning on Sept. 1, 2022. 

Dominion spokesperson Rayhan Daudani said that the utility’s view of RGGI “is unchanged from the comments we made to DEQ in 2018: While the company is committed to its ongoing transition to cleaner and lower carbon emitting resources, we are concerned that the commonwealth’s linkage to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program through the Virginia carbon proposal would result in a financial burden on its customers with no real mitigation of [greenhouse gas] emissions regionally.”

RGGI participation was one of Virginia Democrats’ signature successes after taking control of all branches of state government in 2020, and lawmakers baked the action into two separate pieces of legislation. 

The Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act authorized the Department of Environmental Quality “to establish, implement, and manage an auction program to sell allowances into a market-based trading program consistent with the RGGI program.” 

At the same time, the Virginia Clean Economy Act mandated that Virginia’s power grid decarbonize by 2050 and ordered the Air Pollution Control Board to adopt regulations to reduce carbon emissions from any electricity generator larger than 25 megawatts. 

Jaffe described the move to abandon RGGI and its revenues as Youngkin “cutting off [his] nose to spite [his] face.” 

“The mandate in the code is to get to zero carbon by 2050,” he said. “Leveraging the benefits of a multistate trading market helps us find the most cost-effective way to meet that goal.”

In a statement, however, House Speaker-designee Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, applauded Youngkin’s move, saying that “public policy must achieve results. If it doesn’t, then it’s not good policy.”

“Virginia’s participation in RGGI was premised on the fact that it showed ‘leadership’ in combating climate change. The cost of RGGI to Virginia families and businesses is very real, while the impact of RGGI on climate change is negligible at best — a fact that was documented well before outgoing Governor Northam opted the commonwealth into the pact,” said Gilbert. “In fact, Virginia was reducing carbon emissions from power plants at a rate comparable to RGGI states before joining the cap and trade group.”

Del. Will Morefield, R-Tazewell, who filed a bill Tuesday proposing to set aside 5 percent of RGGI proceeds to set up a flood relief fund for major disasters like the one that devastated the town of Hurley in Buchanan County this August, said Youngkin’s proposed withdrawal “will send a message to my colleagues in the House and Senate that it is highly unlikely Virginia will be rejoining RGGI under a Youngkin administration.”

Morefield’s bill includes a provision stating that if Virginia withdraws from RGGI, $50 million of the state’s unobligated revenues from the auctions will be reallocated to his relief fund, which would also make loans and grants available to economically distressed localities for flood prevention and protection in the event of no disasters.

“I could not think of a more appropriate use for the RGGI proceeds,” said Morefield.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, and Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, said Youngkin’s move “would be incredibly harmful to the health of Virginians, protection of our natural spaces, and preparation for a clean energy economy.

“Governor-elect Youngkin’s proposal to remove Virginia from RGGI would be catastrophic to our commonwealth’s, region’s, and nation’s efforts to ensure a habitable world for future generations,” they said. “We only have one world—with Hampton Roads perpetually flooded, the Chesapeake Bay’s future at risk, and Virginians’ health declining, there is no time left to play politics with Mother Nature.”

This is a breaking news story. It will be updated as more information is available. 

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VCUarts renames Fine Arts Building for first African American dean, Dr. Murry N. DePillars

In a ceremony Thursday, VCU unveiled the newly-renamed Murry N. DePillars Building and celebrated the life and legacy of the former dean, professional painter, and art historian whose leadership helped the school emerge as one of the largest art schools in the country.

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Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts (VCUarts) has renamed its Fine Arts Building for its first dean.

In a ceremony Thursday, VCU unveiled the newly-renamed Murry N. DePillars Building and celebrated the life and legacy of the former dean, professional painter, and art historian whose leadership helped the school emerge as one of the largest art schools in the country.

During the ceremony, VCU President Michael Rao, VCUarts Dean Carmenita Higginbotham, and Mrs. Mary DePillars, widow of the building’s namesake, gave commemoration remarks in the building’s atrium.

DePillars served as dean of VCUarts from 1976-1995, cultivating a period of immense growth and development and whose artwork and research have been exhibited and published throughout the country. He was also a major contributor to the Black Arts Movement, creating bold and daring depictions of what it meant to be Black in America, and was a founding member of the Chicago-based Black artists’ collective AfriCOBRA.

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Patrick Patrong named VMFA’s new Chief Diversity Officer

As Chief Diversity Officer, Assistant Deputy Director for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and HR Strategic Initiatives, Patrong will assist in leading EDIA strategies defined in VMFA’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan and co-lead the museum’s commitment to the ONE Virginia Plan recently launched by the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) and Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM).

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) has announced the appointment of Patrick Patrong to the position of Chief Diversity Officer, Assistant Deputy Director for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and HR Strategic Initiatives. Patrong comes to VMFA with more than 25 years of experience as a public service leader.

Currently the lead facilitator for his consulting firm, Patrong Enterprises, Inc., he has also worked as Construction Training Manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation and Director of the Training, Education and Exercise Division for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. In addition, he led organizational diversity initiatives for seven professional schools of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, while serving as Director of Organization and Employee Development.

“Patrick has a solid background in implementing and managing diversity programs at several agencies in the public sector. We are delighted to have someone with his extensive experience joining the museum’s human resources team,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “Patrick will play a leading role taking VMFA’s EDIA initiatives to the next level and ensuring that the values of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility are fully integrated into everything the museum does and shared with all VMFA employees.”

As Chief Diversity Officer, Assistant Deputy Director for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion and HR Strategic Initiatives, Patrong will assist in leading EDIA strategies defined in VMFA’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan and co-lead the museum’s commitment to the ONE Virginia Plan recently launched by the Governor’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) and Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM).

For more than a decade, VMFA has actively worked to diversify its collection, exhibitions, staff and audience. Building on the success of its previous strategic plan, the museum strives to become a more vibrant, inclusive cultural leader. The museum’s current strategic plan demonstrates its commitment to the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. VMFA’s vision is to be an institution that empowers all Virginians — through art and creativity — to reflect and connect to each other, their communities and the wider world.

“I am excited to join the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts team, to work with employees and the museum’s community on expanding the institutional EDIA initiatives. VMFA’s diverse organizational culture already has unique advantages when it comes to attracting diverse staff and visitors and developing museum exhibitions, art collections and programs that appeal to diverse communities,” said Patrong. “Communication, idea generation, creativity and connectivity are all enhanced through engagement with the museum’s representative communities.”

“Patrick’s knowledge and experience will help VMFA continue to advance towards instilling EDIA values and practices, becoming a more valuable and relevant community resource, and providing even greater access to the arts for all people in the Commonwealth,” said Kimberly Wilson, VMFA’s Chief Operating Officer and CHRO/Deputy Director for Human Resource Services, Museum Operations and Volunteers.

Patrong will begin his position at VMFA on July 26. For more information about VMFA’s strategic plan and EDIA initiatives visit www.VMFA.museum.

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