100 People to Meet: Angels
Whether saving lives, speaking truth to power or using their wealth for the greater good, these Virginians make the commonwealth a better place through their passion, dedication and sacrifice.
Pam Kiecker Royall
Head of research, enrollment services, EAB,
Richmonders can see the artistic legacy of philanthropist Pam Royall and her late husband, Bill, on prominent display in the form of “Rumors of War.” A striking 27-foot-tall monument of a modern-day Black warrior on horseback, it was installed in front of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on Richmond’s Arthur Ashe Boulevard in December 2019. “We made a commitment to bring that sculpture to Richmond,” she says. The Royalls met the statue’s creator, celebrated visual artist Kehinde Wiley, about a decade ago, and Pam Royall owns several of Wiley’s paintings. She has been busy this year with work at EAB, formerly Royall & Co., a direct marketing and recruitment firm for higher education that Bill founded 31 years ago. Amid the pandemic, colleges’ demand for information on students’ enrollment plans has never been higher. “It’s almost a life-or-death scenario for small colleges,” Pam Royall says.
Dr. Danny Avula
Director, Richmond and Henrico County health departments
Richmond-area residents got to know public health physician Danny Avula well in 2020. “Dr. Fauci played that role for the country,” explains Avula, the joint director of the Richmond and Henrico health departments since 2009. A University of Virginia and VCU School of Medicine alumnus, Avula has regularly updated Central Virginia on COVID-19 outbreaks and expects to focus on vaccination once it is available. From June through October, Avula’s health departments hired 120 people, some of whom have made inroads into Richmond’s Latino demographic, which has borne much of the virus’ brunt, along with Black residents. Aside from testing and providing protective gear, Avula says he and his colleagues often have to counter historical trauma and distrust in minority communities: “Public communication during a crisis is important.”
Director of advocacy, The Arc of Northern Virginia
Lucy Beadnell advocates for Northern Virginia’s 39,000 people with developmental disabilities, and next year she plans to dive deeper into her passion project of providing resources for those people within the justice system. In 2021, she says, she’ll be working with first responder and legal offices in Arlington to set up Disability Response Teams, which will “reactively work to respond to cases when people with developmental disabilities are arrested to come up with solutions that really acknowledge and address the disability at hand.” Beadnell also remains focused on supported decision making (SDM), a best practice that moves away from the guardianship model for those with disabilities and closer to a model that allows for more independence and skill growth.
Henry Coleman III
Freshman basketball player, Duke University
Trinity Episcopal School alum Henry Coleman III is a 6-foot-7 power forward on one of the nation’s elite NCAA men’s basketball teams. He’s also following in the footsteps of other athletes with racial justice ideals such as NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and NBA star LeBron James. This summer, a short yet powerful speech Coleman made during a protest at Duke was caught on video. “This country has had its knee on the neck of African Americans for too long. … I’m tired of it,” the 18-year-old said somberly. The video received thousands of views on Facebook. Speaking in October, Coleman says he wants people of other races to “just be open” to listening to Black people’s concerns.
Chairman and CEO, PBM Capital Group
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, businessman, investor and philanthropist Paul Manning donated $1 million to the University of Virginia to establish The Manning Fund for COVID-19 Research to support the university’s efforts to commercialize coronavirus-related research projects. With Manning’s fund, U.Va. will have the resources to complete research into testing, therapies, vaccines and reopening strategies amid the pandemic. The longtime university donor has also served on the U.Va. Strategic Planning Committee, the U.Va. Health Foundation, the U.Va. President’s Advisory Committee and the university’s Honor the Future campaign executive committee. He also founded Charlottesville-based PBM Capital, a health care-focused investment firm that invests in pharmaceutical and life sciences companies.
Dr. Norman Oliver
State health commissioner, Virginia Department of Health
A reluctant COVID-19 celebrity, Dr. Norman Oliver has been Virginia’s voice of calm advice during the pandemic. Speaking in October, eight months into the pandemic, Oliver says that he’s learned “the most important thing … is to tell people as honestly as you can what it is you know and what it is you don’t know, and what your plans are to close that gap.” He’s made special efforts to emphasize the toll of the virus on Black, Latino, elderly and disabled Virginians, and Oliver and his colleagues have started an advisory council to assist a vaccination campaign once a COVID vaccine is approved. He predicts that vaccines will be available to the larger population by summer 2021.
Dr. Vikas Pathak
Pulmonologist, clinical protocol committee chairman, Riverside Medical Group
One of Virginia’s front-line medical workers, Dr. Vikas Pathak worked 14-hour days at the start of the pandemic, checking on patients, determining how fast Riverside’s hospitals were going through personal protective equipment and deciding where overflow patients could go. At home, he had to quarantine himself from his family. A native of Nepal, Pathak completed his internal medicine residency at a hospital in the Bronx. He recognizes that Virginia was relatively fortunate in that doctors here were able to learn from their counterparts in Washington state, Oregon and New York, which were hit harder and earlier. “We learned from other people’s experiences,” he said this summer. “We were blessed to get a late start.”
Dr. Lilian Peake
State epidemiologist, Virginia Department of Health
Dr. Norman Oliver is the public face of Virginia’s coronavirus fight, but Dr. Lilian Peake is the data scientist gathering information. She’s worked in public health for 20 years but notes, “The magnitude of this pandemic is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” If there’s been one bright spot from the pandemic, it’s that people in charge of the state’s budget now recognize how underfunded Virginia’s public health sector is, says Peake. “There’s a lot of demand for public information” about the pandemic, and that was especially true in the early days. Peake worked up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week without a break until June. In 2021, her hope is to spend more time improving quality and analyzing data collected this year.
Dr. Sandy Simons
Emergency medicine specialist, Bon Secours-Richmond Community Hospital
In March 2020, Dr. Sandy Simons found herself thrust into the national debate over the pandemic after she wrote a moving first-person essay for Politico about her coronavirus worries as an emergency room doctor. Simons has remained busy, especially since regular patient volume picked up without a corresponding staffing increase this summer. She’s often the only ER doctor on night duty, and her hospital is frequently the closest place for homeless people with special needs to seek help. An outspoken presence on Twitter and a columnist for Emergency Medicine News magazine, Simons says that a COVID-19 vaccine — when approved and available — will “make life so much easier.” Taking surgical masks, gowns and other protective gear on and off is time-consuming, and it’s been hard limiting family members who want to visit. In 2021, Simons says, “I’ll need to start writing my book.”
CEO, Disruptor Capital; co-founder, Virginia 30 Day Fund
A serial entrepreneur turned angel investor, Pete Snyder has also become a lifeline for small businesses drowning in unexpected debt from the pandemic. Snyder, the former Republican Party of Virginia finance chairman, and his wife, Burson, launched the Virginia 30 Day Fund, which makes forgivable $3,000 loans to small businesses. “Like the [coronavirus], the economic disease that has hit our Main Street knows no bounds,” Snyder told Virginia Business this spring. Snyder is also the CEO of Charlottesville-based angel capital investment company Disruptor Capital. In 2013, Snyder lost a Republican primary convention bid to become the GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor — but he’s said to be eyeing a potential 2021 run for governor.