Miracle, Magic, Mission

When the Lady Bisons’ standout he’d been eyeing was finally detached from her hometown boyfriend, suitor Andrae Townsel dispatched one of his Bison football teammates on his behalf: “I said, ‘Marvin, since you know her, why don’t you go say hello.’ He went up and said, ‘Hello.’ And that’s all he said.”

Laughter flooded the phone lines between the couple’s household in Washington, D.C., and wife-and-mother Dr. Courtney Townsel’s temporary outpost at the University of Connecticut. In D.C., Andrae Townsel co-parents the couple’s son, Andrae Jr., 4, and is vice principal of one of the nation’s premier, primarily Black magnet high schools, Benjamin Banneker Academic. In Connecticut, through the vaunted UConn Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship, Courtney is honing her physician chops in stopping high-risk pregnancies among women of color, especially the poor. She heads home on weekends.

“I’d noticed her on the court and was, like, man I like that No. 25,” said Andrae (B.S. ’07; M.Ed. ’09; Ed.D. ’15), remembering.

“And my whole thing,” said his eventual bride (B.S. ’07), “was that I didn’t want to be involved with a football player and all that (stereotypical) drama. I was trying to be focused and stay on my path.” 

On their first date, they found they had a lot in common and a connection that was miracle, magic and mission-driven. They were wholly invested in doing good and acutely attuned to the ways in which Howard’s faculty and far-flung alumni have modeled what that means.

“Mr. Suttles, one of the few Black male teachers in my school back in Detroit, spoke life into me,” Andrae said. “And I’ve wanted to be that male figure who can inspire or instigate thought [and] ...hope into our kids. Once I got into the field and saw the need, I decided to take that on full speed. ... Howard helped cultivate that drive.”

“And we help motivate each other,” said Courtney, a Georgetown University Medical School grad whose research has been published by, among others, the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and American Academy of Emergency Medicine.

The couple envisions someday transporting their skills back to Howard’s campus: “It would be easy to take a nice job, 9 to 5, once I’m done with my fellowship, to see patients [at Howard University Hospital],” Courtney said. “So many days, I walked past [it], honoring that work and understanding the scope of the community ... and what the community needs.”

 

Katti Gray is a New York- based editor and writer. 

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