Richardson receives surprise honors at Black History Month event
Xavier Richardson arrived at Hugh Mercer Elementary School in Fredericksburg on Friday morning thinking he would be presenting awards.
He never imagined that he would be an award recipient, too.
“It was a great surprise,” Richardson said. “I’ve attended this program for many years but never envisioned getting this award.”
The school honored the health care executive for his service to the school and the community at their celebration of Black History Month event.
“Xavier Richardson is an illustrious member of our community,” said Marjorie Tankersley, principal at Hugh Mercer.
“When I saw my family sitting at the front of the assembly, though, I knew something was up,” Richardson said.
Richardson’s wife, LaZalia V. Richardson, an English professor at Germanna Community College, and his daughter, Christiana Richardson, were in attendance as well.
“It is important for children to have someone to admire and look up to early on,” LaZalia Richardson said.
Tony Lewis, a recent graduate of the University of Mary Washington’s MBA program and current intern for Mary Washington Healthcare, came to support his mentor of 10 years.
“I’m here for Xavier,” Lewis said. “He is a great mentor. If I hadn’t known Xavier, I wouldn’t be where I am today. He and my mother are the most influential people in my life. Everything I’ve done I credit to them.”
Richardson, the executive vice president of corporate development and community affairs for Mary Washington Healthcare and president of the Mary Washington Hospital and Stafford Hospital Foundations, has been serving Fredericksburg for over 25 years.
This year, his organization, The Partnership for Academic Excellence, celebrates its 25th anniversary after having assisted more than 3,500 minority students in attaining a college education.
Among his many other works, Richardson has also raised more than $30 million during the past 15 years for a variety of causes through Mary Washington Healthcare and Moss Free Clinic.
For the school, Richardson helped acquire a grant from Mary Washington Healthcare for it to start a STEM program, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math in education. Richardson awarded the check for the grant to Hugh Mercer in the fall of 2013.
STEM classes and the STEMulate club started in November.
Lisa Lewis, a first-grade teacher at Hugh Mercer, teaches STEMulate, a STEM program run like a science lab. Students have been working on building Lego robots and using computers to program them. They also have been working with electronic snap kits offering students building experience, according to Lewis.
Second-grade student Kan’yae Patterson approached Richardson to thank him for helping Hugh Mercer attain the money for a STEM program.
“I love science! And Legos!” Patterson said.
“Marylise Cobey [Kan’yae’s teacher] came up to me with tears in her eyes because Kan’yae has come such a long way,” Tankersley said. “He is doing much, much better because of the STEM program and is loving it. It has opened doors for students like Kan’yae.”
At the assembly, three students—David Nettles, Madelyn Rowe and Jamal Lewis—were also recognized as winners of the Black History Month art and essay contest.
Michele Phillips, Hugh Mercer’s gifted resource teacher, gave a presentation called “The Beau behind the Bow Tie,” focusing on black history and Xavier Richardson’s life and accomplishments.
Richardson was awarded a plaque for his service to Hugh Mercer and the African–American community of Fredericksburg. He and his family were then invited to attend a luncheon featuring African–American food, a tradition orchestrated by Regina Thompson–Fortune, or Mrs. T., for 16 years now.
“That’s what ensured my success: people and teachers who believed in me,” Richardson told the 910 students in closing. “I want you to dream big like I did.”
Katelyn Leboff: 540/374-5417