A lifelong leader in healthcare for veterans, Irene Trowell-Harris (Ed.M., Ed.D. ’83) was recently named among Yale University’s “Pioneers in Public Health.” The director of the federal Veteran Affairs’ Center for Women Veterans for 12 years, Trowell-Harris earned a masters in public health from Yale, and later earned her health education doctorate from TC.

Major General Irene Trowell-Harris, U.S. Air Force. Photo courtesy of Irene Trowell-Harris. 

Trowell-Harris began her 38-year military career as a flight nurse in the New York Air National Guard, the only role women were permitted to have in the military branch at the time. By 1993, she was the first African American woman in the history of the National Guard promoted to Brigadier General.

The niece of World War II veterans, Trowell-Harris began aspiring to military service when, one day while picking cotton with her 10 brothers in sisters in South Carolina, she watched as a plane flew overhead. “I said, ‘One day, I’m going to be up there,’” she recalled in 2013 in an article on TC's website. 

Irene Trowell-Harris (right) with Annual Fund Scholar Rashida Robinson. Photo by TC Archives. 

At the intersection of public health and service, Trowell-Harris views her contributions beyond military accolades. “The true value of my accomplishments must be in using them to benefit society – specifically, college students, family, church, community, state and country,” said Trowell-Harris, a dedicated supporter of the TC Fund and the Annual Fund Scholars. “My greatest joy in life is mentoring and helping others to become successful and achieve their potential as leaders for the next generation.”