With one second left on the clock, Terrell Ivory ’00, Assistant Director of Admission, jumped up for a chance at a buzzer-beater shot. Making the basket, Ivory solidified his fifth win in six years of playing in the eighth annual Todd A. Isaac Memorial Basketball Game.
The Todd A. Isaac Memorial Basketball Game is a hallmark of Andover’s annual Weekend of Remembrance, which honors and remembers the victims of 9/11. The event began as a tribute to Todd Isaac ’90, according to organizer Uche Osuji ’91. Isaac, along with Stacey Sanders ’94, was a victim of the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers. Osuji explained how the initial organization of the event looked for a way to honor Isaac’s memory.
“Several years later, I think we all were still trying to figure out a way to mourn, appropriately, in some way, the loss that we all experienced through the loss of friendship… And as we thought about how people mourn, we thought that we all shared a common loss, which was Todd Isaac. So perhaps it was that for us to commune with each other around that time — to mourn the loss, but to also celebrate his life and to celebrate light,” said Osuji.
Ivory said that although the game’s atmosphere sometimes starts to become competitive, there is always an air of appreciation and respect in the room.
“I think people in the crowd, they get nervous because it’s so competitive sometimes when the game’s close and it’s the last minutes of the game. And the thing that I love about it is that you can compete really hard, and right after the game you’re best friends,” said Ivory.
Osuji explained how Isaac’s impact has been in his ability to transcend typical social divides to bring the Andover community together. Osuji also expressed his admiration for Isaac’s dedicated work and commitment to giving back.
“I want to remind people what made him such a great Andover [alumnus], which is that Todd, one, was born in the Bronx to a single mother. He worked hard to come to Andover, and while some people would be laid by an Andover docket, Todd used his wit, his laughter, his joy for life to make friends across race, gender, socioeconomic level, and became an integral part of the Andover fabric,” said Osuji.
Osuji continued, “He understood that Andover impacted — positively — the trajectory of his life arc, and he always gave back as a result of that.”
In its early years, the game included an auction dedicated to raising money for a scholarship at Andover in Isaac’s honor called the Todd Isaac Scholarship. According to Jennifer Savino, Director of Alumni Engagement, sufficient funds were raised to fully establish the scholarship within less than two years.
“All the money came to Andover towards the scholarship. So within just a short amount of time, maybe a year or two, the scholarship was established. Which is an unbelievable feat, because it’s a very generous gift to give to the school… But the basketball game was so much fun, and it seemed like the respectful, sweet thing to remember a dear friend who was lost so tragically,” said Savino.
Prior to this year’s event, the annual Weekend of Remembrance also consisted of two additional activities: breakfast with Jake Barton ’90, former classmate of Isaac and designer of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, followed by a guided tour of the museum.
This year, however, the weekend’s events were shifted around in order to create a less emotionally taxing experience for participants, as well as to place more emphasis on the basketball game and reception.
“To maximize the focus on the basketball game, we’ve taken the breakfast program and we’ll be rescheduling it for another time of the year. So now this year, it was very much focused on the basketball game and the reception afterwards,” said Savino.
According to tradition, participants listened to two halftime speakers to remember the lost alumni, Isaac and Sanders. This year, the speakers were Osuji and LaShawn Springer, Director of Community and Multicultural Development.
Springer shared reflections from her visit to the memorial earlier that day, while Osuji recalled a story where, after he had faced a challenging situation, Isaac showed him compassion and helped him get past it.
Osuji said, “[Isaac] truly embodied ‘not for self’ with his giving back to Andover. And I shared a personal story about one of the failures that I had at Andover, one of those many failures that I had at Andover, and how people made fun of me, deservedly so. And I remember encountering Todd on the path, on the sidewalk, and bracing myself for his joke, and he basically said, ‘That took a lot of courage, what you did. Good luck next year.’ Which is again [to say], although he was one of the funniest kids around, he never used it as a weapon. He used it to disarm, to welcome.”