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In the Media

From Canal to Swamp – The Townsend’s

Categories: Resident Stories

To 78-year-old Marvel Davison Townsend, a current resident at Oak Hammock Retirement Community at the University of Florida, waking up every morning next to her husband is one of the many blessings she feels fortunate to have. As a resident of Gainesville for 42 years and a math professor at UF for 24, she has created a lasting impact on the community, leading to her having an award named in her honor: the Marvel D. Townsend Lecturer Award in Mathematics.

Despite the chaos, nothing can stop her from seeing the beautiful moments life has had to offer from her youthful days until now. She hasn’t allowed a single mathematical problem to get in the way of her dreams.

Today, if anyone at UF mentions Townsend, they automatically think of numbers because of the legacy she left behind through her passion for teaching mathematics throughout her life.

“When I went to college in those days, women were pretty much teachers, nurses, or secretaries,” she said. “We weren’t doctors and lawyers and dentists and everything like nowadays, so I knew I wanted to teach.”

Townsend added that after teaching at Duke University and combining her love of helping and being around children, she realized this was what she wanted to do in life.

The former professor was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1942 in the midst of World War II. As a result of the military draft, her father relocated to the Panama Canal Zone, and her mother followed him down when Townsend was just 11 months old.

The United States controlled the territory where she grew up, and during this time period, both of her parents worked for the U.S government.

“We lived in housing like a military base. It was assigned, but er had a wonderful, wonderful childhood.” She said. “We had good schools; we had good friends, we had time to play outside at the time, we were on the water all the time. I loved it.”

Despite having an American nationality, there is not a memory of Townsend’s youth that isn’t characterized by the strong rays of the Central American sun of Panama. She stated that growing up in the Panama Canal Zone, it was warm all year, and she and her friends played outside all the time.

She couldn’t help but smile every time she mentioned the water that surrounded her when she was growing up.

The Panama Canal Zone even played an essential role in her romantic life because she grew up with her husband, Frank Townsend.

“We knew our families, but we hadn’t dated each other. We had other boyfriends and girlfriends,” she giggled as she processed the memory of how their love story started. “It was destiny was for.”

Townsend added they got married a year and a half later in Panama. They selected a sunny day at the start of June for their happily ever after to begin. They drove from Panama throughout Central America to Texas to celebrate their honeymoon.

To read more about their stories and distinguished accomplishments, visit https://issuu.com/ufcjc/docs/giggle_pagesetup_2018_final_10.30.00_am?fbclid=IwAR2SoO9URPVCgT4tvky7VdJMtH6u2Ni9GYC7fIuZGvK_KD3yBWAcznTfY8M.

Thank you to Orange and Blue Magazine for featuring the accomplishments and beautiful stories of the Townsend’s.

Original Story Written by: Denisse Flores of Orange and Blue Magazine

Photography by: Chris Kim of Orange and Blue Magazine