Two Richmonders who reached the pinnacle of their professions this year were honored together Monday as the 2019 RTD People of the Year.
Author Meg Medina and schoolteacher Rodney A. Robinson are among 24 individuals spotlighted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in its fifth annual RTD Person of the Year program. The civic recognition initiative honors servant-leaders and others whose contributions and achievements have highlighted the Richmond region.
All of the 2019 honorees are featured in the December edition of the RTD’s Discover Richmond magazine, which publishes Tuesday. The magazine captures not just how the honorees have shaped the region, but who they are as individuals behind their titles and accomplishments.
The RTD Person of the Year honorees were celebrated Monday during a luncheon at the Omni Richmond Hotel. At its conclusion, Medina and Robinson were highlighted for how — in their commitment to youth and diversity — they have helped to strengthen and spotlight the Richmond region.
Medina, who was 40 when she fully turned her career to writing, has brought life and given voice to the Latino experience in young adult fiction, picture books and other works. Medina was awarded the 2019 Newbery Medal — the highest honor in American literature for children — for her book “Merci Suárez Changes Gears,” about a strong-willed sixth-grader and her struggles at home and school.
Robinson, a Richmond Public Schools teacher for 20 years, found his calling in the city’s juvenile detention center, where he targets the school-to-prison pipeline at ground level. Robinson was named the 2019 National Teacher of the Year and is now traveling the country to share his message of not criminalizing poverty, of supporting restorative discipline instead of exclusionary, and of making schools more integrated.
In addition to Medina and Robinson, 22 other RTD Person of the Year honorees for 2019 are standouts in many fields — from art and advocacy to science and nature — and their work touches everyone from students to seniors.
The honorees are:
Jeffrey W. Allison of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Dr. Danny TK Avula of the Richmond and Henrico Health Departments, Talley V. Baratka of Impact 100 Richmond, Dennis Bickmeier of Richmond Raceway, Susan F. Dewey of the Virginia Housing Development Authority, Margaret Freund of Fulton Hill Properties and Dr. Frank Gupton of Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Engineering.
Also, David O. Harris Jr. of the Arthur Ashe Boulevard Initiative, Lynne Barribeau Hughes of Comfort Zone Camp, Hunter Leemon of Sportable, Dr. April D. Hennis Marchetti of Randolph-Macon College, James Parrish of Equality Virginia, Angela Walker Patton of Girls for a Change, Douglas H. Pick of Feed More and Charleita M. Richardson of Partnership for the Future.
Also, O. Randolph Rollins of Drive-To-Work, Jacquelyn E. Stone of McGuireWoods, Daphne Swanson of Junior Achievement of Central Virginia, Shane Tippett of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Michael L. Wade of the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office, Kimberly Watson of Soar365 and Thelma Bland Watson, Ph.D., of Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging.
The RTD introduced its Person of the Year program in 2015, which was the 165th anniversary of the RTD and the 40th anniversary of its Discover Richmond publication. The RTD views its work as a service to Richmond, so to celebrate the milestone year, it developed a program to honor individuals who also serve or achieve in the region.
The program invites nominations from the community. The RTD selects some honorees based on achievements during a particular year or in recent years, or over the course of decades.
The luncheon celebration Monday at the Omni was presented by Sona-bank, which has served as the event’s presenting sponsor in each of the RTD Person of the Year program’s five years.
The Richmond Christmas Mother Fund is a beneficiary of the luncheon, and in recognition of all 2019 honorees, Sonabank also made a contribution to the fund.