2016 Richmond History Makers Honorees

Promoting Stronger Communities

Patty Parks, Richmond Public Libraries

“Patty has left her mark on the community in uncountable ways. Richmond is the center of her life, and she expends an incredible amount of energy in building coalitions and collaborations that actually provide tangible benefits for the people in Richmond. She is universally liked, admired, and has become a role model for others whose hope is to make the world a better, kinder and more educated place.”

 – Malcom Parks, Nominator

As the manager of the Main branch of the Richmond Public Library, Patty Parks devotes untold hours to advancing the educational opportunities for people in the Richmond area, especially in the city, and especially for youngsters and disadvantaged populations. She believes in the productive and creative potential in all people, and detests barriers and those who build them, meanness and petty disputes. She loves books and their authors, libraries, bookshelves, artists and especially people involved in bringing their brilliance or simple passions to others.

She has been active in community gardens, farmers markets, numerous programs for teaching people computer skills, nutritional principles, helping the homeless population find work and homes, advancing minority culture, literacy, African-American genealogy, and much more.

As library manager, she has championed programs that have had people dancing, taking yoga, meeting people of other nationalities, and learning about Richmond and beyond.

She has left her mark on the community in uncountable ways. Richmond is the center of her life, and she expends an incredible amount of energy in building coalitions and collaborations that provide tangible benefits for the people in the city.

Parks champions librarians, educators, and students at every age and stage of curiosity. She works in and behind the scenes to break through barriers, provide assistance, opportunities, and experiences that help people discover their love of learning and their own passions. She has done it everywhere she’s worked, with everyone she knows. She is universally liked, admired, and has become a role model for others whose hope it is to make the world a better, kinder, and more educated place.

Watch this video to hear more from Patty Parks. 

Improving Social Justice

Dr. Edward H. Peeples, Jr., Civil Rights Leader

“The lifelong personal and professional efforts of Dr. Edward Peeples have produced a lasting legacy of influence upon issues of social justice in Richmond and the Commonwealth. His scholarly research and committed work as a social activist has been an ongoing contribution to human rights and social justice in the Richmond community for more than 60 years.”

 – Brian Grogan, Nominator

For more than 60 years, Dr. Peeples has demonstrated a passionate commitment to social justice, beginning with his work in the Civil Rights era fighting for desegregation and educational equality and opportunity. His research and published writings have explored issues of civil rights and social justice. His lifelong efforts have produced a lasting legacy of influence upon the issues of social justice in Richmond, in the commonwealth and across the South.
As a participant in the 1960 desegregation sit-ins at Thalhimers department store, he contributed to the greatest social justice movement of the 20th century – the end of legalized segregation and the transformation of the Jim Crow culture of the South.

As a young adult, he was deeply engaged with the Encampment for Citizenship where, in 1957, he spent time with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Bunche, and Eleanor Roosevelt. He brought those profound experiences back to Richmond, to his teaching, and to this community, which he loves. In 2013, after a 16-year hiatus, he arranged for the re-launching of the national Encampment summer program in Richmond to introduce a new generation of young people to the importance of active citizenship.

Throughout his career, he has mentored the coming generation of social activists and historians while seeking to help give voice to the poor, dispossessed, and marginalized members of society. The people who carry forward his work and message of a just society are representative of the change Dr. Peeples has brought, and continues to bring, to Richmond and Virginia.

His memoir, “Scalawag: A White Southerner’s Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism,” (UVA Press, 2014), is a candid account of Richmond in his time.

Watch this video to hear more from Dr. Peeples. 

Creating Quality Educational Opportunities

Dr. Joann Henry, Dream Academy, Inc. 

When Dr. Joann Henry retired from Richmond Public Schools in 2012, she was convinced that more needed to be done to assist high school dropouts. She was appalled by the sheer number of students who quit. Instead of giving up, she founded her own school – Dream Academy – the first adult high school that awards diplomas to adults in the Richmond area and the first that is Virginia-based. Dr. Henry is a unique figure who is changing lives one student at a time by providing a pathway to a diploma that did not exist before she began her school.”

 – Jeremy Lazarus, Nominator

For 20 years as a teacher and administrator in Richmond Public Schools, almost entirely at Armstrong High School, Joann Henry sought to enable students to succeed in school, link them to jobs and expand their horizons by leading trips overseas.

When she retired in 2012, she was convinced more needed to be done to assist high school dropouts. So she founded her own school, Dream Academy, the first adult high school that awards diplomas to adults in the Richmond area and that the first that is Virginia-based. Begun in 2012, the school provides computer-based instruction through a state-approved, SOL-based program allowing students to take needed courses online 24/7 at their own pace.

She has kept the school affordable by charging $750, the lowest tuition in the United States. And she puts in 40 hours a week without compensation because the school has yet to cover more than its expenses. She recruited tutors and a counselor to ensure that the courses meet state standards.

Today, students who pass the required courses are awarded a Richmond Public Schools Adult High School diploma. In July, 30 adults graduated, adding to the nearly 100 students who have received diplomas and gone on to jobs, to serve in the military or enroll in college for additional training.

Dr. Henry is partnering with the Workforce Resource Center to provide the program to dropouts age 17 to 25, as well as offering classes. Dream Academy also is offering Certified Nursing Aide and Pharmacy Tech instruction leading to state licensure for graduates and others seeking admission to those fields.

Dr. Henry is a unique figure who is changing lives one student at a time by providing a pathway to a diploma that did not exist before she began her school.

Watch this video to hear more from Dr. Joann Henry. 

Demonstrating Innovative Solutions

Chris and Rebecca Dovi, CodeVA

Rebecca Dovi, a public school teacher of computer science in Hanover, and her husband Chris, an acclaimed investigative journalist and educator in Richmond, founded CodeVA in 2013 to ensure that Virginia students are ready to meet the demands of a 21st century workforce by providing “computer science education for all” students in Virginia. They approached the mission with a focus on training teachers, advocating for innovative legislation, and creating safe, constructive learning environments for students.”

 – Jeff Nelson, Nominator

Rebecca Dovi, a public school teacher of computer science in Hanover County for more than 18 years, and her husband, Chris, an investigative journalist and educator in Richmond, founded CodeVA in 2013 to ensure that Virginia students are ready to meet the demands of a 21st century workforce by providing computer science education. They approached the mission with a focus on training teachers, advocating for innovative legislation, and creating safe, constructive learning environments for students – especially Richmond Public Schools students – to engage with computer science.

The nonprofit CodeVA seeks to expand and intensify computer science training for students and teachers. Backed by Richmond City Council, Robins Foundation, Capital One and The Community Foundation, CodeVA became a partner along with 13 regional school divisions in “CodeRVA High School,” an innovative public high school model that focuses on preparing students for computer science careers.

CodeVa’s annual summer camps train students in computer programming, and the group has already helped to school more than 400 teachers on how to code and how to implement more computer science education in the classroom. Working with the national organization Code.org, CodeVa has also been effective as an advocate. It was credited with helping to spur on the passage of Virginia bill HB 831, a first-in-the-nation law that mandates computer science training for all students in Virginia public schools. The new law directs the Virginia Department of Education to establish computer science standards. In its short existence, CodeVA has greatly elevated the public awareness and importance of computer science education in Richmond and across Virginia.

Watch this video to hear more from Chris and Rebecca Dovi. 

Encouraging Regional Collaboration

Jack Berry, Richmond Region Tourism

“Jack has passionately and effectively created nearly three decades of solid regional cooperation in tourism through Richmond Region Tourism and the Greater Richmond Convention Center Authority. He has forged strong relationships with the jurisdictions and has seen several leadership changes over the years. As the years continue on, the cooperation has never been better, and the tourism industry is at its strongest. His passion for inclusivity and approach to regional tourism built the foundation for success that the entire community benefits from today.” 

 – Katherine O’Donnell, Nominator

Jack Berry is the unsung hero of regional cooperation in the Richmond Region. For nearly 25 years at the helm of Richmond Region Tourism, Jack has been a champion for jurisdictional partnership amongst the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and the city of Richmond.

Jack has passionately and effectively created nearly three decades of solid regional cooperation in tourism through Richmond Region Tourism and the Greater Richmond Convention Center Authority. He has forged strong relationships with the jurisdictions and has seen several leadership changes over the years. As the years continue on, the cooperation has never been better, and the tourism industry is at its strongest.

“While you weren’t looking, Richmond got cool.” This is what Frommer’s travel guide said when it named the Richmond Region a 2014 top worldwide destination. Under Jack’s leadership tourism in the Richmond Region is on fire, breaking records in hotel stays and visitor spending. In 2014, 7 million visitors spend more than $2 billion here. Tourism bolsters the Region’s economy, generating 22,000 jobs last year. Tourism supports the entities that make RVA a wonderful place to live.

And while economic impact, jobs and notoriety are important, perhaps even more significant is the impact that tourism’s success has had on the psyche of the local residents. RVA keeps getting better, and people are noticing. Richmond is on dozens of lists including one of America’s happiest cities.

The key to success for Richmond Region Tourism and for Jack has always been regional cooperation. His passion for inclusivity and approach to regional tourism built the foundation for success that the entire community benefits from today.

Watch this video to hear more from Jack Berry.