The best night in the life of this aging Citadel point guard…

 

I’ll not pretend this is not one of the greatest nights of my life and one of the most surprising. In the history of American letters, no writer has had such a troublesome and controversial relationship with his college. I’m personally responsible for much of that tension and I’m fully aware of that. But, when I was a cadet at The Citadel, I decided I was going to try to become an American writer and I found myself encouraged to do this by my English professors Doyle, Carpenter and Harrison, with a generous push from the history department of Conger, Martin and Addington. I took every course taught by the magisterial Oliver Bowman who let me in on the secrets of human psychology. Though I often lamented not going to an Ivy League college, I’ve talked to many of my contemporaries who did. They talk of great parties, drunkenness, and the great pleasure of midnight conversation and easy sex. I survived the toughest plebe system on earth, was taught by professors who cherished and loved me, and I was at my desk during Evening Study Period for four straight years. Now, I think I had the best preparation to write novels of any writer of my time on earth. I brought some of The Citadel’s fighting spirit into my life of words with me. From the beginning, I’ve told journalists that I planned to write better than any writer of my time who graduated from an Ivy League college. It sounds boastful and it is. But the Citadel taught me that I was a man of courage when I survived that merciless crucible of a four-year test that is the measure of The Citadel experience. I’m the kind of writer I am because of The Citadel.

The Citadel

Though I was not welcome on this campus for thirty years, my name will now be on a plaque hanging in McAlister Field House in perpetuity. It will hang there because I am a writer. But to me, it will be there because once I was young and raring to go and could bring a basketball up court and do it fast. Once I was a Citadel basketball player with the name of my college spelled out on my jersey and I think the happiest boy that ever lived on earth.

In 2002, I published a book called My Losing Season after I saw the brilliant shooting guard John DeBrosse in a bookshop outside of Dayton, Ohio. That night we talked about our 1966-67 team long into the night and I realized that year still carried all the agonies and splendors of sport in a single tormented season. I started to write that book and visited all the teammates I had abandoned after we lost a heartbreaking game in overtime to Richmond in the Southern Conference Tournament.

I had fallen in love with my teammates that year and never had the human decency to let them in on the secret. By going back to find the heart of my basketball team, I found my way back to the soul of my college. My teammates, in the grandeur and despair of their memories, provided the means for me to explore the regions of myself that led to the fierce pride I take in being a Citadel man. In the The Lords of Discipline, I tell of my disgust with the plebe system, but that it not a complete truth; it was the savage abuse of the system I loathed. It was the cruelty to boys under the guise of leadership that I rejected from the first day I walked into Padgett-Thomas barracks until the last. I never raised my voice to a plebe. I was raised in the Marine Corps and I was taught as a boy that you feed your own men before you feed yourself. It was my belief then, and it remains so today, that my platoon who loves and respects me will slaughter your platoon that hates you. But here is the great lesson I took from the Plebe System – it let me know exactly the kind of man I wanted to become. It made me ache to be a contributing citizen in whatever society I found myself in, to live out a life I could be proud of and always to measure up to what I took to be the highest ideals of a Citadel man – or, now, a Citadel woman. The standards were clear to me and they were high and I took my marching orders from my college to take my hard-won education and go out to try to make the whole world a better place.

The Citadel gave me all of this and then gave me one of the greatest gifts of my life – it allowed me to be a college basketball player, to represent my college from the hills of West Virginia to the banks of the Mississippi to the night lights of New Orleans. I tested myself against great players from Florida State, Auburn, Virginia Tech, Clemson, George Washington and thirty other teams around the South. Those great players taught me agonizing lessons about myself and my limits as an athlete. They taught me I was not very good, but I learned the same lessons every day from my splendid teammates at practice. I was a mediocre player out of his league in a very tough Southern Conference. But Lord have mercy on my soul, I loved that game with a passion that remains with me to this glorious night.

Let me tell you how it was. My guys and I would dress for the game and listen to the field house filling up with the noise of a fired-up crowd. Let’s play Davidson, the year they were ranked number one in the nation at the beginning of the year. I want the place packed to the rafters and I want the whole Corps there. When you’re a jock at The Citadel, you play for the Corps and there is nothing on earth to compare to the thunder and excitement and raw menace of the Corps screaming for their team. The Citadel band goes wild when you take to the court for the outcry of the Corps and it is that superb band that provides the musical score with its theme of wildness, and oneness, as the Corps rises in unison, its huge demon-driven voice urging its team on. Under the boards, Dan Mohr grabs a rebound, tosses it to John DeBrosse, who hits one on the wing and I take it flying down the court – yes – and I said flying and I once felt like a winged, unstoppable creature when I led my team on a fast breakout that polished the floor with my golden teammates filling the lanes around me and I heard Hooper or Connors calling from the left – Bridges filling the right lane and the opposing team sprinting to cut off our mad dash to the basket. This scene played out in eighty games over my career as a Citadel point guard and I would go flashy and show-offy when I neared to top of the key and watched the eyes of the guard who was supposed to stop me. I turned my head to the left or to the right and if I saw him overplaying I would streak past him, just because I could and I wanted to put on a show for the Corps and my teammates. If the big man came up too fast to stop me, I’d lay the ball off to Tee Hooper or Doug Bridges and they would fly through the air to score. The Corps would ignite and explode in a pandemonium of roaring and chanting and they put a primal fear into the hearts of the enemy who dared get in our way. Eighty nights of my life on earth were spent with the name of The Citadel emblazoned across my chest. I had never been so deeply alive before and so rarely have since.

But it was my team, my team, my bruised and damaged team, that was my greatest gift from that year – Dan Mohr, Jimmy Halpin, John DeBrosse, Dave Bornhorst, Bob Cauthen, Doug Bridges, Tee Hooper, Bill Zycinsky, Greg Connor, Al Kroboth, Brian Kennedy. I grow weak when I think about these guys, the way it felt to be around them, to be part of them. Our coach was the Ahab-like Mel Thompson and we fought through that year with his heel on our throats. He was a man of relentless fierceness and he ran us as a Gulag rather than a team. Several of us would vomit from exhaustion after practice and those practices were more physically exhausting than anything we ever suffered during the plebe system. Ten out of those twelve players had a game in their career where they scored over twenty points in a Citadel varsity game and the whole team averaged over eighty points a game before the era of the three point shot. That team could play ball, but I believe it got its heart cut out by a coach who didn’t know what he had. They were magical young men who have lived exemplary lives as Citadel men. All twelve of us graduated, many with gold stars and most with time on the Dean’s list. They have also become one of the most famous college basketball teams in history. When My Losing Season came out, I got letters from some of the most famous coaches in the country, coaches of all sports. Professional basketball players wrote me, the book was featured at the ACC championship tournament. It was used as a halftime special during the NBA championship. Whenever I sign new books, people ask me questions. “How’s Root doing? Is DeBrosse still coaching? Did Connor ever get a date? What happened to Zipper? Did Bridges ever apologize to you for getting you kicked off the team? Is Barney still a nut?”

The book is being taught in high schools and colleges around the country. Young men and women have applied to The Citadel after reading this book. My team is going to live on in some library forever. I finally got to tell my team how I felt about them and I finally got to tell my college how I felt about The Citadel.

So I’ve lived a lucky life and this night is the wonderful conclusion of a very long war between my college and myself. I speak to you from a room that is named for the Boo and his portrait is watching from behind me. My name will hang among the greatest athletes ever to play for the long gray line and I could not carry the jock of a single one of them. I chose to go into this hall of fame as a Green Weenie, what Dave Bornhorst called the second string of The Citadel basketball team, and it was the Green Weenies who kept the spirit of sport and competition

The Ring

alive for me. Their fire and their loyalty and their steadfastness moved me and I claim myself as one of them tonight. I want every second stringer in the history of this school to know that a Green Weenie is going up on The Wall. I began this journey in 1963 and it reaches some beautiful and surprising conclusion by the generosity of this committee tonight.

But ladies and gentlemen, I told you a long time ago why this night means everything to me.
I’m the guy who wrote his first line in The Lords of Discipline for all the world to hear. It summed up the way I felt about The Citadel and always have – I wrote four words. “I wear the ring.”

I thank you with all my heart for this priceless honor.

109 Responses to The best night in the life of this aging Citadel point guard…

  • Denice Grace says:

    I was recently offered my choice of tickets to go see the Michigan State Spartans play basketball and I choose the game against The Citadel because I had read your books about them including My Losing Season.

  • connie lotfi says:

    You are my favorite writer! I live to read and you have provided hours of pleasure. Thank you!

  • Robin Mitchell says:

    Thank you for writing. My son is a senior at The Citadel now. He earned his ring in October, 2014. I know the experience is not for everyone but for him it will define how he sees himself in the future. I dropped off a boy and got back a responsible, honest, empathetic man. I have always been a fan of your work and perhaps in a small way you, Pat Conroy, are the reason my son ended up in Charleston. Thank you

  • Dan Cobb says:

    I became an English teacher and basketball coach because I read The Lords of Discipline in college. When I coached, I read bits of My Losing Season throughout the year and encouraged players to read it. Two or three did every year and at some point one of their fathers, and even mothers, would approach me for the first time and tell me how much they enjoyed the book too. When I finish teaching Macbeth, I always read the class the part from the book as well.

  • Bob England says:

    I cannot tell you how moved I am by this, Pat. It may be the finest,most honest, and courageous thing I’ve read by you. thank you. Greatest regards to you and your family. bob

  • Jeff Liipfert says:

    Thank you… have read every book…. Beach Music was the one that reached home so much for me….. loved and understand what you were saying in this address…..

  • Manny Ramirez says:

    Have loved your writings and books since they were first introduced to me 22 years ago. My partner Rusty is a 86 grad and we’ve read all of your books. Thank you for all you do! I gave my Uncle John, a WWII vet your Losing Season book. He played college basketball and loved it! Manny Ramirez

  • Tom Howie says:

    Well said Mr Conroy. Congratulations.

  • Kelly Davidian says:

    Whatever it took, I am eternally grateful for the writer you are today….your books, your pictures painted with verse are amazing, poignant, surprising, tough and lovely in turn…..thank you, thank you, thank you for your dedication to releasing the genius long enough each time to produce such beautiful work!

  • Steve S says:

    Wonderful address. I have read most of Mr. Conroy’s books but will now put My Losing Season on my reading list. I lived in Charleston during the early 80′s, during the time when The Lords of Discipline was popular and the movie came out. I remember Pat’s description of Charleston and thought it was perfect…” a city in love with itself.” Thanks, Pat for all the great hours reading your stories.

  • Carol Flowers says:

    Beautifully written and a well-deserved honor. You have made the Citadel proud and a better school because of your books of truth. Truth always wins in the end. Happy New Year to you and Cassandra!

  • This is beautiful. Wonderous to come full circle and make peace with our old demons! I know…I’m a shrink (and writer). Met you in Evanston, Il. many years ago at a signing. We’re both Southerners and military brats. You asked me,”Are you always on time?” Recommended a book. Thank you for that. And for all your words and stories, always. You are one of my heroes!

  • Claudia Lohrey says:

    Have read every book you have written, cook book included. Know very little about basketball, however “My Losing Season” is one of my favorite books I have ever read. Recommend it to others often. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story.

  • Ann lamb says:

    I am the widow of a 60 grad who loved your books, loved to tell everyone about you. You made us proud. And as I told you when you asked at SIBA in New Orleans , I did no kill him
    Congratulations!

  • I enjoyed every word you wrote.

  • Victoria says:

    Love you Pat! You’re my favorite author; I’ve devoured every one of your books and long for more. This was a lovely speech. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

  • Gwen McGill says:

    I don’t have the gift of being able to express myself but I just think your books are superb. Just deleted everything I wanted to say because I have no talent in expressing myself as I previously stated. Love that you like to cook too.

  • Jeanne Rountree says:

    Pat Conroy, I have posted here before, and I will post again. As high school student, I thirsted for your novels, and I read them them because I had never experience such fervor before. The Lords of Discipline is still in my top 3 of all time favorite reads. My 12th grade English teacher told me that I shouldn’t read it because it made her sick, and I told her that you must be a good writer if you could make her feel sick. Now as a middle school English teacher, I have read every novel, cookbook, etc that you have written, and I try to incorporate your works in my classroom when I can. I am grateful that you were inducted in the Hall of Fame. Thanks for writing this blog. Thank you allowing me to understand how it feels to wear the ring. And from daughter of a Marine–Semper Fi.

    • Doc Mitchell says:

      I was one of those green weenies in the early seventies and only saw playing time as a jv player. I am one of those coaches who thanked you for letting people know what it meant to be a teammate, a priceless and glorious word. I loved the game coaching for 25 years on the high school and college level thanks to my citadel experience. Congratulations for the honor you received, but I remember in the old locker room your picture on the “Wall of Fame”, you could play

  • Linda Leigh says:

    Thank you. You are the second author I have searched out every book.John Steinbeck was the first. Now that I’ve entered my sixty’s, I realize the hardest periods of my life
    were valuable and essential to my growth. I’m glad they are over and glad I didn’t quit.
    The Citadel honoring you is like a happy ending in one of your books. It’s similar to coming back to your estranged family.

  • Wes Wheeler says:

    love your books… started my fourth one today, The Water Is Wide. Thanks

  • Patti Moore says:

    Congratulations Pat. What a blessing to have lived long enough to know that the Citadel (still) loves you. Your mother and father would be proud. Thank you for sharing your life (and recipies) with us. You are a national treasure.

  • Jeanette Mattison says:

    I have enjoyed your writing for many years. It is sheer poetry. I haves loved all your books.

    I also have loved The Citadel for many years as my two oldest brothers graduated from there – one the same year as you. I have always appreciated what I understood to be the bond and comaraderie of the cadets (although I detested so much what I understood the plebe system to be).

    And lastly, I very much loved growing up in the low country of SC (Georgetown County) near the beautiful Black River among the natural sweeping beauty of the live oaks . My father was a hardworking man who farmed the land, raised 5 sons (and me) in a Christan home. It was a good life.

    Thank you for sharing so many of your characters with your readers. Over the years. And congrats on your admission into The Citadel’s Athletic Hall of Fame! I am proud of you. SC’s greatest writer of all time!

  • vickie knight says:

    you wear the ring

    I read because of you.

  • Mark Ready says:

    I was a soccer player at the College of Charleston from 1975 – 79. We enjoyed many a great match with our cross peninsula rivals. Several of their team were very good friends of mine away from the pitch. The ’70′s were a rather tough time for The Citadel following the War in Vietnam Nam. I had a great deal of respect for those that chose to stick it out for 4 years. Most that I have kept up with have been served well by their Citadel education and the comaraderie that they built on the fields of play. I’m a big fan of your writing and very pleased to see that you and The Citadel have rebuilt the second most important bridge in the Holy City.

  • David Benckert says:

    Mr. Pat Conroy, what a great speech, I’m so happy for you,to have your school accept you back and honor you this way. Love all your books, read most at least twice. Please write more novels as I feel so in touch with your youth in the South. I relate to so much of your literature. Keep on writing.
    Dave

  • I have read and loved every word of your books. I really loved reading your speech to the Citadel. We lived in Myrtle Beach for 30 +years and love South Carolina. We visited Charleston often, when there ALWAYS went to Battery Park, I always felt I could read in that park for days on end. We moved back to Indiana about 2 years ago due to health problems. We now live in Wabash, In close to our oldest son, who helps us tremendously. It is an honor to read your written works.

  • PATRICIA ALONSO says:

    Dear Pat- It is Because you wear the ring that….

    You are the Best.

    Thank you for your brilliant work. Your books have moved me in ways
    Have reached my soul.

    Be well, Patricia

  • Tamara Spirakis says:

    As always, a pleasure to read. Thank you for your wonderful contribution to not only southern American literature but to the literary community worldwide. Grateful to have read all your works and congratulations on your “best night”.

  • jacqui katool says:

    Thank you for sharing your speech. Like your books it carries part of your soul with it. You are my favorite author because you so richly described the ways of the South with such love, respect and grace that it has caused many of those who know nothing of our culture to have a clue of a more passionate and genteel people. Thank you for realizing your love of the written word and sharing it with the world.

  • Pat, yet another well deserved honor. The girls and I were reminiscing recently about your early writing days. Sure was a long time ago! It’s wonderful to see you looking so well and happy. Grandpa has a great grandson named after him. He’d be very proud! Maybe you’ll see this. We think of you often!

  • Barbara Padget says:

    Pat,
    Congratulations! Such an honor! I am a Citadel mom, retired English and history teacher. I have every book you have published. You spoke at my son’s graduation in 2001. You are a writing genius! Your magic with words is”hall of fame” quality as well as your basketball talents. I recently smiled when my 10 – year-old granddaughter and daughter of my Citadel son respectfully rubbed her hand over your books on the shelf and asked, “Gramdma, when will I be old enough to read these?” I replied that she and her dad would decide the answer to that question. I told her that your books would remain on my shelf and be there for her. In addition to your plaque hanging at El Cid, your words will be with us as well and read by another generation. Well done!

  • Congratulations, Mr. Conroy! I am hoping that my high school classmate, Gen. John Rosa, had something to do with your honors. My infatuation with your writing began as a beginning teacher, when I read “The Water is Wide”. It really helped with managing my inner school classroom. One of my greatest treasures is a signed copy of that book. My father, also a Marine, was, fortunately for me, a sweet and caring man, as it appeared to me that you are. How wonderful to receive your accolades while you are still alive to appreciate them!

  • Ray Peden says:

    Not too shabby, Mr. Conroy. Your time at the Citadel is an amazing story of passion and conviction. And it turns out that your speeches are as fine as your fiction, although words drawn from the heart always seem to inspire greater genius. As a fellow writer, I have long admired your silky prose, and my shallow attempts to recreate your style, oddly have held me back when I tried, in embarrassing futility, to use ‘Conroyistic’ prose to substitute for story. But I have studied, revised endlessly, evolved, and persevered, learning how to balance the two, and I hope to publish that ‘first novel’ this spring. I still find the lure of your wordplay a little intimidating. Yet it continues to serve as a noble target, and I’ll be forever grateful for that. Who says beautiful writing can’t serve a well-told tale. Congratulations. The Citadel has finally embraced one worthy of her ideals.

  • Mr Pat,

    I have grown up reading your books. Being a Beaufort girl and a Marine Corps brat, I knew about your books, and of course many of my friends were extras in the movie “The Great Santini.” I’ve read everything you’ve written. Each story so unique, yet has such commonality. I have read several of them more than once. I love to get lost in the words. So happy that the CItadel was able to move beyond those years and realize that you are indeed a thread in their cloth. Thanks for sharing.

  • Seeky says:

    Congratulations first for a well deserved honor. Wonderful acceptance speech. I love all of the books you have written…not sure which is my favorite….hard to say. But as a former teacher….The Water is Wide..I loved. Taught in rural area but was most diverse due to military base near by and taught the “haves” who had it all and had traveled the world and then the “have nots”….the kids who no written text except the Bible in the house, never seen the coast, the mountains or a city (one only 15 miles away)….only a very small town. I could relate to the kids and you in the book…I wanted them to know there was life beyond. Took them to the capital…awesome to watch them….many had never eaten fast food….greater day for me…I’m sure you understand why. I could go on and on about each book but just have to say…..Thanks for the pleasure you have given me through your books!

  • i was a member of clas of 68, T Company. I left after my knob year, but have maintained a connection to the college and some of my friends from that experience. I attended every home basketball game and was amazed at you skill on the court and appreciated you tolerance toward freshmen. Congrats on the hall of fame award.

  • Pete Little says:

    Mr. Conroy, Sir, you are a writer. This address brought tears to my eyes as have all your books. I cherish my well worn copy of “The Boo” even more now that you have signed it after 54 years.

    Another that wears the ring…
    ’70′ November.

  • Karen hoover says:

    I’m so happy this honor was bestowed on you – proves you have had a positive effect on the Citadel on and off the court. I am thankful to the Citadel for instilling in you the courage to write with such honesty, even about painful and hurtful experiences. You speak for those of us who don’t have the talent or courage. Your works have enriched my life and I thank you for them and for always being supportive of your teachers (I toiled in the trenches of public education as an English teacher for 30+ years).

  • Nora Westcott says:

    You made the right choice. The Citadel is like any other institution. It has its qualities as well as its faults. Instilling discipline, honor, and duty trumps in its students trumps whatever it lacks. As a retired English Professor, these qualities are in short supply at most universities. Your induction in the Hall of Fame was long overdue, and I am glad they’ve recognized your contributions.

  • Rene Radwan says:

    i have read all of Pat Conroy’s books multiple times and enjoy every time .Beach Music is the winner wth fifteen reads. Cannot wait to start it again. Love you Pat Conroy. When can we épée anew book? PLEASE

  • Rene Radwan says:

    I have read all of Pat Conroy’s books and own most of them. I have read Beach Music 15 times and plan to read it again. Keep them coming Pat

  • Keith Dennis says:

    As a retired Marine, I’ve read everything you’ve written. As my 18 year old twins we growing up, I made it a point to tell both of them every day,that I loved them. Your writing taught. Their mother and I celebrated our twentyth anniversary this week. The boys are high school seniors in the “IB” program, the the the youngest twin, James just received his acceptance Certificate from the Citadel. He is a piper, and will be joining that excellent Band. My other son, John has also excelled and is looking at Emory Riddle &FSU. I used you as a template on how to raise my sons with honor and love.
    Thank you. Congratulations on your award.
    Best regards from the Dennis family

  • Dianne Davis says:

    Love your books, you make us proud. Glad you made peace with your Alma mater Award well deserved.

  • James E. White, M.D. says:

    From an old doctor in Baton Rouge, who has read everything you have written, thank you for showing your true greatness by mending old fences, and–as we all must do at some point–showing that the road to true wisdom is indeed paved with humility. God bless you for sharing your great writing talent with we mere mortals, and may God grant you and Cassandra happiness and peace. Jim White.

  • Helen Barr says:

    I’ve read all of your books–even the cookbook and enjoyed every one, except those about the Citadel which were so cruel and sad. But it prepared you, not only to write great books, but to live out your life in a family that was unbelievably destructive. I could relate to much of the discipline because my father was a very cruel, loveless man. That stains you for the rest of your life. Like you, I have survived but alone for the most part until now, in my 70′s, I have found love from young men in Africa that, by God’s grace, I am able to help attain an education. I believe I am doing God’s will by helping them escape the bonds of poverty. Today I just sent a year’s tuition to a very intelligent young man to continue on his road to becoming a doctor. He also was alone until I found him. Many children in Ghana are orphans but he now has a mother and he is my son as surely as if I had borne him! Pray for them and me so I can continue to liberate these boys. Thank you for all the enjoyment you have given me through your books. You are one of my favorites–and congratulations for running your race with heart and endurance.

  • Peter Hugret says:

    From “The Boo” on I have always been entertained, educated and moved by your printed words. Being a year behind you at The Citadel (Engard’s roommate in N Company), I saw many of your games as well as experienced such unique events as a plebe year! I shall always credit The Citadel with significantly contributing to my character development, especially as it relates to living life with the honor code and self discipline. Thank you Pat for sharing your gift.

  • Kathy Winstead says:

    Congratulations on this most deserved award! I’ve never been part of a sports team but can certainly relate to the amazing feeling of being part of a team and the lessons and joy that brings. I wish all the best for you and Cassandra in the new year! See you, again, in Decatur in September!

  • Wes Shuler says:

    Pat, Well done and congratulations. It is hard to reach the rim of life sitting on a sofa eating chips and dip.

  • Charles "Chuck" Toney says:

    I was one of the boys from Romeo company matriculating the fall following your graduation. I knobbed for Booster Windam, a five year senior spending many a Friday night helping him study so he could graduate the coming spring. Like you, I loathed my first year there. I saw few examples of leadership in less they were to mirror the opposite of what leadership was supposed to look like. Being very dyslexic, my Retoric and Writing classes were tough since I was expected to get it down on paper the first time without mistakes. I taught me to think and plan before putting pen to paper and to write what had been well-organized in my mind. The lessons those Citadel professors taught worked well for me later when I realized I could sit at a type writer and create an entire research paper using a few 3X5 cards as guides and get it right the first time. Pat Conroy, you have always been my favorite modern American author. Thank you for a shelf of wonderful entertainment and a few great movies they inspired. And, congratulations for another achievement.

  • As always, beautifully written. Thanks for sharing the lessons learned. Congratulations!

  • Lydia Ann Breedlove says:

    Prince of Tides is my favorite.

  • you wear the ring proudly and the Citadel is very proud of you. I have read all your books, “beach music” twice and have all most completed “south of Broad”. Thank you for giving me many hours of reading entertainment.

  • Chris Marlette says:

    Congratulations Pat. Hope to see you in St. Augustine.

  • Sylvia Funk says:

    Pat,

    Congratulations on this honor!

    In my opinion, you are the best writer of your time. I loved all your books, but especially Beach Music with South of Broad not far behind. The Preface in Beach Music, particularly, is pure poetry and I re-read it periodically for the incredible pleasure it gives me.

    I wish you many more honors and myself many more of your books!

    Cheers!
    Sylvia Funk

  • margie brewer says:

    Congratulations on this award! I am still just so grateful that I lived during the same time in history as you did. You are, by far, still my favorite author. I feel as if you are one of my best friends, even though we will never meet. In fact, I think hoards of people feel the same way. Even though you are the best author, you would have made a FINE psychologist. These old years, they are going by in a hurry. I am 66, now, so you must be close to the same age. Hope me and all your fans can look forward to more of your great writing.

  • I have read all of your books. Loved them all, especially, Beach Music. Really, all of them are stick in my memory. Gone With the Wind was my favorite book in my childhood, then East of Eden, then Lonesome Dove, then it was all of your novels. You are my favorite writer! Keep writing! God bless and thanks for the enterainment!

    cathy eldredge messier
    Hixson, Tn

  • Nancy Varn says:

    Congratulations!!! Loved this and love your books!!! Please write more!!!

  • /alex Gettys says:

    Congratulations Pat. There is nothing more demanding than a student athlete at The Citadel. If you can compete in the classroom and in your sport then you are well prepared for life. That is why this Hall of Fame is a great honor and you are most deserving. .Thanks for a lot of great nights in ’66 and ’67.

  • Paula Fogarty says:

    Congratulations, sir, on this tremendous, and deserved honor. Thank you for serving the world of letters some of the best prose it will ever have!

  • Jeaneen Tucker says:

    As a Citadel mom (Tango ’10) I know how positively the honor system effected my son. He will Graduate from USC Law in May. I am confident he will carry his truth forward, like you, and make a positive impact. Keep writing, Pat. What you have to say matters. (My fav is The Water is Wide)

  • Elizabeth Flood says:

    Congrats on your induction. You are my favorite author! I Loved The Prince of Tides but South of Broad is my all-time favorite. I read it twice, immediately after I finished it the first time. I’ve never done that before; but the first time was for content and the second time was to appreciate the way you write. My children went to the College of Charleston and my daughter got married at Magnolia Plantation this year, so you can see why Charleston is so dear to me. Hope you’ll keep on writing.

  • Linda (Charles) says:

    Pat , we have admired and appreciated your talent as a writer since I (Linda) heard 1st your Mother read the Bible to you and then proceed to read every night ‘Gone With the Wind ‘ … two of the most important books to me and in the right order… I think you are the right writer for the Real 2nd GWTW , you have the original Author’s real heart and not that junk they tried to pass on to us a few years ago … you will not be afraid to carry Rhett and Scarlet to develop characters for God and for mankind (not so selfish Scarlet ) blessings to you Pat… sincerely, Linda and Charles

  • RICKY ALFORD says:

    PAT…I MET YOU AT DR. DUFFORD’S APARTMENT IN 1970?…I BELIEVE YOU WERE WRITING “THE WATER IS WIDE” AT THAT TIME…DR.DUFFORD HAD A VERY POSITIVE INFLUENCE ON ME AT EDMUNDS/SUMTER HIGH SCHOOL IN 1969…WALTER MCRACKAN AND I WOULD COME VISIT HIM WHEN HE LEFT SUMTER FOR COLUMBIA IN 1970.
    I
    AM SO HAPPY THAT YOU HAVE HEALED ANY POTENTIAL OLD WOUNDS WITH YOUR ALMA MATER….IF YOU SEE DR. DUFFORD OR REED SWANN…PLEASE GIVE THEM MY REGARDS….AGAIN CONGRATULATIONS!…RICKY ALFORD…SUMTER, S.C. (DUFFORD USED TO TEASE ME AND CALL ME A “DAMN SORRY SOUL”…LOL…

  • Dorothy Richardson Kirtley says:

    Beautifully stated!

    Have read most of your books. The Prince of Tides I know by heart.
    Please keep the stories and evocative spell casting words flowing about life , love, families. and our beautiful southern coast and tidal marshes.

  • Beverly Matthews Madrin says:

    My husband and I have devoured every one of your novels. Our passion for your novels began with Prince of Tides. I was in textbook publishing then and having asked our panel of authors to share their all time favorite novel, each one replied Prince of Tides…thus began our journey through your artistry.
    Thanks for your novels and for sharing your story.
    Congratulations for your induction into Citadel’s Hall of Fame … Well deserved!

  • Debbie Brooks-Dabney says:

    Pat,

    Congratulations on this incredible honor. You have always written from the heart, and that is why I, and so very many others love you. Keep writing! Wishing you continued success and much, much happiness.

    Debbie Brooks-Dabney
    Lexington, S.C.

  • j Carey Jones says:

    Congratulations Mr. Conroy, Thank you for skillfully sharing your life with the world . Your books have given me hours of enjoyment. Please keep them coming.

  • Allan Lacsamana says:

    God bless you, your wife, your family and your teammates Pat. Happy New Year.

  • I thought I was your biggest fan until I read all the remarks. But God Bless the Citadel for honoring you in such a big way. And if I hear one more time, “Is Pat Conroy coming this year to Girlfriend Weekend?”, I’m going to scream…”perhaps, he will SURPRISE US!” Now all I want to know is what Doug Marlette is saying up in heaven, but I can wait. I can assure you, I can wait.

  • Frank Sirre says:

    Great speech Pat, as a ’69 grad I was there in your and mine, as The Boss wold sing: “Glory Days”!

  • Lawrence Iverson Thompson says:

    They used to say, “The Army makes men”. The truth I learned when I dropped out of college and enlisted during Vietnam is “The Army break boys. If there is a man inside, he will emerge”. Sounds like the Citadel is a similar crucible. My wife and I have enjoyed your various works. Perhaps now, we can understand from where the “seasoning” comes.

  • Mike Russell says:

    Dear Pat,

    Your words haunt me, provide joy and contentment, but most of all allow catharsis to take hold of my memories of my father. I have wanted to tell you how much I felt I’ve had in common with you despite our age difference.

    When I read, “The Great Santini” as a younger man I came to understand my father a little more through your words. He was a strange man, and difficult to know; however, your book helped me realize the brilliant moments that were a part of his life.

    In “The Great Santini,” at the funeral, Ben remembers when he was a little boy and how his father would fly over their home “performing for his son.” My own father did just that. He would fly over our home in his Cobra helicopter – for me. Now he is gone, having passed away from cancer due to Agent Orange. But I bring him back when I read and re-read your passages in that book and realize you have written about me and my dad. I cannot read those words without crying.

    So I thank you, Pat. Your books are poetry to me. Thank you for putting into words what I feel about my father and my beautiful memories of him as he too, “climbs toward stars and suns, toward galaxies and night.”

    Mike Russell
    Bountiful, Utah

  • Robbie Medbery says:

    reading this reminded me of how much my family loved Tee Hooper. He is missed.

  • Julia Bailey says:

    “For the love of teaching” is what you inscribed in my copy of My Losing Season in Denver many years ago, the same night a retired Viet Nam Marine Vet stood at the back of the room to thank you for your anti-war efforts here at home. I used the Prologue to The Prince of Tides in my creative writing classes for years simply to show them a master at work establishing one tone so beautifully only to abruptly shift to its opposite in one sentence. It remains my favorite of your books. Thank you for your presence in the world of contemporary literature.

  • Virginia Gay McHugh says:

    I had the privlege of hearing you speak and sign books at the University if Georgis in 1998. You signed the book to my son who was entering the Citadel that fall with “carpe diem,” Now, 15 years later, I proudly wear the Citadel’s mother’s ring inscribed with the same messge, “carpe diem.”

    Thank you for your inspiration, your greatbooks, and your many achievements.

  • Randa Adams says:

    Your talent for writing is a rare beauty. Thank you for the many hours it took for you to bring your stories together, which at times, would bring tears and laughter.
    Many blessings for 2015.

  • vic powers says:

    class of ’70 @ Beaufort High… loved the teachers vs. varsity basketball game in my junior year, when that mainly old, pudgy , molasses slow group of future cardiac patients ts had a newbie point guard secret weapon on their team to even the playing field, so to speak… you must have scored 50 points that day… made a few jocks feel like actual jocks… a life well lived…

  • alan rosenfeld says:

    Sure I’ve read them all,but as I told you when we met at a small venue near Chapel Hill last year,My Losing Season was the anthem for a Psych course that I taught at Rigdeview HS in Columbia,SC…We cheered you and your boys on then,and we thought you all deserved more…Coach wasn’t really sure how to make it work,but he also loved you guys! I’m hoping there is still another story or two to be told!

  • Mary Ann H. says:

    Congratulations, Pat, on this wonderful honor. For someone who has captured our love and repeatedly kindles our imagination with your wonderful stories – how satisfying to watch how life has come full circle and given you back such well-deserved appreciation. Thank you for sharing the truth of your life and its many challenges with your readers – and for making each of us who meets you feel that we are not alone in our own travels.

  • Kristin West says:

    What a great speech. My dad Mike West ’64 would have loved this.

  • Herb Brantley says:

    I had a friend at The Citadel the same years as you. His life was cut short just after graduation by a tragic accident. Your words brought memories of Billy DeBruhl back to me and the times we spent together. I thank you for that, Pat.

  • Tim Nance says:

    Congratulations to a fellow lamb who not only survived it but thrived because of it

    Sincerly
    Tim Nance
    Class of 1975

  • Marilyn Seeser Zimmerman says:

    Loved your reply . I read your book”THE RIVER IS WIDE”. I lived in Beaufort,S.C. in the time frame you were writing about.I knew the people you were talking about even though you changed their names.I loved the fact that you were tryiing to teach the children of Defuskie (sp)Island.I am also a military brat. My father was in the U>S>M>C> for 30 years.My husband for 27 years.Thank you for your books. Marilyn S. Zimmerman— Tomball ,T.X.

  • Susan Anne Livingston Thompson says:

    It has been a long time since we taught together. I can say with complete honesty that I have enjoyed every book you have ever written and your exceptional writing above all others. Your manipulations on the use of the English language and its vocabulary is a marvel within itself. Thank you Pat for many hours of reading enjoyment. You take me on intense journeys that I never want to end. Your address to the Citadel just added another dimension to the wonderful man/author you have become. Thank you for sharing your well deserved honor with us/me. I so love how you included your team in this honor in such a dramatic way. Sue

  • Arnett M. Peccini says:

    Congratulations! Your address was a great review of your book, and brought back to me the essence of your book. Thank you!

  • Trevor Miller says:

    I read LOD in high school and decided to attend El Cid because it was such a bad ass book. I hated you for four years…

  • Julie Brechbill says:

    My son graduated from The Citadel in 2013. He read all of your books before attending and was dead set on going there. It isn’t a school for everyone, but it is a very special place. I wasn’t all that sure it was a place for him but after visiting it, I knew he made the right decision. He wears the ring everyday.

  • Jan Royal says:

    You are the great words smith here ; yes, words do fail when wishing to convey some heartfelt emotion to a fellow being whose honorable statements arouse such stirring sentiments that tears spill …….created perhaps by the toughness and tenderness abiding in the passion and fervor of the young sporting knob whose raw emotions would be the catalyst for a world renowned author. Thank you most especially at this moment of great honor so becoming a Citadel man of letters that you have, once again, passed on to others wisdom and truths that encourage, inspire and ignite their very soul ….Would that all the cadets read every sentence many times to strengthen them in all circumstances. I am a Southerner with over two hundred years of No. Carolina history ( So.Carolina also) and am so proud to have a grand Knob at the Citadel and hoping he experiences the positive and motivating power instilled in you…;although mercy and mercilssnes travel the same path Pat , you and others have shown that courage and fortitude can and will turn out a fine cadet preparing them for a ” life well lived”… Congratulations on this Citadel tribute and a life lived beyond a cup that runneth over…and for sharing this illuminating journey. Splendid. Take care.

  • Jim Plunkett says:

    I’m so very proud of you.
    Jimbo Plunkett ’64

  • Patty Kinard says:

    I adore every word of your books. Living in the Charleston area added so much to my excitement of reading your books. I just found, at an estate sale, the old book Stirrin’ the Pots on Daufuskie. I wish you could “desifer” the recipes for me. I would be glad to send it to you for returning to you an appreciation for your books. I believe it had a picture of where you lived. Any way I can get it to you including any spots on the campus for you to get would accomplish my mission. Best wishes for a rain storm of blessings crossing your path.

  • Margene Dufford Odom says:

    You are the most amazing writer and person imaginable. I’ve heard you speak and I’ve read virtually everything you’ve written, and I’ve been mesmerized by every word. The Water is Wide enabled me to teach English and reading in public middle schools in the 60′s, 80′s, and 90′s with a different heart and soul than would have been possible without your experiences and insight. Every teacher should have read that book. Magnificent.
    Beach Music’s chapter that begins, “Well, Jack…” is the most gripping chapter I’ve ever read on any subject. And I loved what you wrote about your in-laws at that time.
    But My Losing Season is my favorite book. None could ever top it for candor,
    courage, class, and continuous compelling drama. A masterpiece.
    Thank you, for being who and what you are. Incredible.
    You are a true “Hall of Famer”, and I’m proud that you were friends with my cousin Bill and also my fellow Newberry College alumnus Gene Norris. God bless you.

  • Jim Thomas says:

    Congratulations Pat – well deserved. I was in Charlie Company 1963-1965. Lousy student but I learned a lot and survived the same long nights as you and so many more. I still love “The Boo”. Spent most of my life in law enforcement and was successful, but always wished I had studied harder and stayed. Thanks for representing us so well.

  • Dolly Williams says:

    At this time, Pat Conroy is on my mind. Loved and reread each thing you wrote. Beach Music stands out, as do all. Also Cassandra King. Please don’t stop. Presently, I am living a documented story to be continued. Each day, I think of Pat Conroy’s description of each and every character, including who would play the characters in a movie of this nightmare I am living. All is documented, having to do with me, wife of charming bullshitting Bill. Alzheimer’s patient, golfer, temporary guardianship, GLADLY AND MISTAKENLY , given to greedy daughter, and 2 brothers. True love, who cares??? What is love anyway??? Law is law Hopefully next hearing gets permanent guardianship revoked, PLUS PUNITIVE DAMAGES.. And then what? I guess, take care of Doll. Another “Notebook”. That one was a love story, this one is very mixed emotions, to be continued. Next hearing on 1-26-15. So confused, tell me the ending of this nightmare Pat Conroy! Thank you for your gutwrenching contributions that you shared with all of your fans. God bless you and yours! Sincerely, Dolly Williams, 409 Hilltop DR. Rice Lake, WI.54868

  • Mary Derbyshire says:

    Your breath taking honesty and love for the people in your life are the reason for my love of your writing. It takes a brave person to strip themselves bare. Thank you for letting us see you.

  • Toney Bowen says:

    Dear Mr Pat,
    I suppose that after all these years you have had many people tell you how much they have appreciated your novels and for all sorts of reasons. I would like to tell you why in the beginning I fell in love with your books. In the fall of 1984 I was a 34 year old man going through a pretty rough divorce. I had no idea where my children were most of the time and the stress of my problems hounded me constantly. I had lost over 40 lbs and it seemed I couldn’t get a moments peace. One night on the way to work I stopped in the local library to try and get something to read. A book with a flight jacket caught my eye and for the next several nights you gave me shelter from the storm. I am an old man now and I have never forgotten your gift to me. Thank you….Toney

  • sara says:

    Always so good to read your posts.

  • Robert Erdeljac says:

    Pat – Congratulations on your honor of induction. You are my favorite author. I passed up a football scholarship to the Citadel in 1967 to attend Clarion University of PA. and play under a great man, Coach Al Jacks. I would be different had I attended the Citadel; interesting to speculate how different. I am a retired American History teacher of 40 years. You inspired me to write my first book which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of my Oakmont High School’s Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League Football Championship when it is released in August of this year, 2015. I would love for you to read it and provide me with an endorsement for the cover. All my best to you Mr. Point Guard. CARRY ON ! (Clarion ‘battle cry’)

  • Paul DesRoches says:

    When you peruse these comments, as I have just now done, one can find that the experience of reading Pat Conroy in any form, i.e. cookbook, reading list, young teacher, pained son, enthralled sports player, and so much more…..all of your writing imparts a sense of enrichment, of fullness, of real meaning, of significance. Impossible to condense into words, perhaps, but folks just can’t get enough of your wordsmithing, Pat. When I digest a work of yours, it seems my own life experiences are simultaneously drawn out from your candor and fervent craftsmanship, and I find myself hanging on your coattails in empathy at every emotion you conjure up. Your struggle becomes mine, your pain is at my door, and when you celebrate life’s most precious moments as you did in “My Losing Season”, I am elevated to tears of joy as well. Thank you for that. And hearty congrats on what clearly is a great honor for you, having made peace with your college in the most inspiring and delightful manner possible.

  • Sarah Branch says:

    Dear Dear Pat – What an honor you have received and well deserved. Not only an honor as an alum of The Citadel, but as an alum of that field house and the floor where you played your sacred game. I too had the honor of playing point guard at the Coast Guard Academy and had the great thrill to meet you in New Orleans a few years ago at Garden District Books when you did a signing. You were gracious enough to sign two books for me – the first, my mother’s all-time favorite book, Prince of Tides, which she read every year and she is the reason why I have such a passion for your words and books. The second book you signed, My Losing Season. Until I read that book, no other author, sports writer, sports caster, team mate, etc. could put so thoroughly and passionately into words the love of the game of basketball I had as you wrote in that book. I spent every minute reading that book understanding every emotion you described, including the forever connection one has with their teammates.

    The confidence that came with being on that court, having the ball in my hand, knowing I knew exactly what to do at any time, any play, any situation, is a confidence I have rarely found in other aspects of life! Being sore, exhausted, tired. On the verge of vomiting due to nerves before the game. The smell of the ball, the gym. The squeak of sneakers on the court. The hustle, diving for a ball, making a steal. The sixth sense, telepathic-like connection I had with other players, knowing where they will be, them knowing I would get them the ball, the forwards/center knowing I would appear on the periphery of a scrum when they came up with a rebound looking to clear it out to me.

    Thoughts, emotions, feelings that I honestly thought I could only explain to myself in my own mind, you somehow are able to put into words. It is fascinating and I love every word you write. Your honesty is refreshing and I admit I adore your debauchery, good times that have been had, inappropriate jokes/comments/jibes that you share with the friends that share that same world, the love that you had/have with your friends. As mentioned before, my Mom is the reason why I fell in love with your writing and your books. When you signed Prince of Tides for her and I told you it was for her, you inscribed, “For the love of good daughters”,” with your signature. She was thrilled when I gave it to her and I told her all about meeting you and talking briefly about basketball with you at the signing. She passed away almost three years ago, far too young and I now have the book you signed for her. I only hope she agreed with your sentiment that you inscribed on the title page of that book.

    When I finish reading the last page of the latest book you wrote, I am always filled with the same feeling of dread and satisfaction at the same time. It’s the same feeling I had when I played my last basketball game ever. It is the thought of “Well, NOW what?”

    When the day comes that you no longer write, I will continue to cherish your works I have been privileged to read and absorb. I will read and re-read all of your books the rest of my life.

    Thank you for sharing and writing!

  • Susan Abbott says:

    You are my favorite writer, well Truman Capote is too but you are much more likeable. My grandfather went to West Point. He left to take care of his mother and didn’t graduate. After I read Lords of Discipline I often wondered if he left school because of the hazing. Regardless I am so proud of him. Thank you so much for the gift of your writing.

  • Bob Beaty says:

    Mr. Conroy,
    I was visiting my friend, Greg Gillespie at his used bookstore, Port Richmond Books last fall. A gentleman came in and inquired about Beach Music. Greg didn’t have a copy. I asked the gentleman about the book. He said, it was the best ending he ever read.
    My wife found a copy at the Book Haven, located in our neighborhood of Philadelphia.
    Last night, I started Chapter Three. The first two have teared me up. Just like the Great Santini ( Parris Island , ’67, Vietnam Vet 68-69). Prince of Tides, read the book and saw the movie with my ill Mom in 1990, and South of Broad, just before my son’s marriage to a Charlestonian daughter at the Huguenot Church in 2010.
    Regret missing you in Philly in November, 2013. I said to Ann, me bride we will try those white truffles, thinly sliced with risotto real soon.
    kind regards,

  • Hi Pat! I am just now reading The Death of Santini. I am 56 and mostly just read you and Grisham…I love to read, but I don’t usually. My parents didn’t. I seem to follow along with alot of their traits. I totally relate to you about childhood and I am so grateful to you for having the courage to write about it. Reading is healing. I’m so sorry about the pain! We learned some good things from it tho, right? I hope that you are able to smile, laugh, and enjoy! I think about you alot! Thanks for everything!

  • John Kemper - VMI Class of 1968 says:

    Pat: I just came across this after our good friend Barney told me about your blog and your new business venture. I recently sent you an e-mail about The Citadel hiring the VMI basketball coach, Duggar Baucom – what a great hire as Duggar is an excellent coach and a proven winner at a military school. Duggar and I are very close and I look forward to coming down to Charleston next season and possibly have dinner with you and Duggar – you will love this guy. Your speech moved me as we share many of the same memories of that era having played against each other and who could forget the 4 overtime game that was finally decided in favor of The Citadel by the winning basket made by none other than Pat Conroy! The reunion we had a VMI in 2007 that brought together players from both of our teams was special. Although we had not seen each other since our glory days in the 60′s, the feeling of mutual respect and friendship was very special between fierce competitors from our past – I hope we can do it again.

  • bob wright says:

    Dribblin’ Man,
    Congratulations! Ol’ Toomer would be glad for you. I still love the words expressing your passion for basketball—”It was the finest year of my life. Not once (rarely) since then have I felt so fully alive, so vital and necessary.
    Mike Grill’s friend Isa. 40

  • Dear Mr. Conroy- I’m in my 70s and on my fifth career–that of a writer. The latter is partly thanks to you. I’ve devoured all your books, from “The Boo” to “The Death of Santini.” I’ve written three memoirs: two are on the market and the third is in the hands of my agent. But, it’s the fourth, on which I’m currently working, that was inspired by your “My Losing Season”–my all-time favorite. My “Cowboy from Prague” will be a story of my journey from Holocaust survivor to Division-I point guard. I may have been your equal in basketball, but I only wish I could write one-tenth as well as you. Thanks for being my silent writing teacher!

  • john winston says:

    Without doubt, not only are you my favorite writer, but the inspiration for my love of writing. The solemn pride you must glean from this most prestigious honor would be most difficult to measure, but I think I have more than an inkling of how it must feel. Why? Because it gives me such a beaming feeling, too. And we’ve never met, unfortunately. Congratulations, Mr. Conroy.

  • Hey, Pat,
    As an aging roundballer, you might want to check out http://devour.com/video/uncle-drew/.
    During a golfing outing to The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, last week, I had an opportunity to visit VMI in Lexington. A young cadet took us on a tour of the school after which I can affirm two thoughts. First, I am very proud of the young men who attend these schools (like The Citadel) and go on to serve our country. Secondly, thank God I went to Mercer instead!!
    Your fan,
    Steve
    p.s. Love Trevor Miller’s post.

  • Robert Murie says:

    Pat,

    Thanks for all your writings. I have read all but “My Reading Life” and have enjoyed every single book. I loved “My Losing Season” and can relate to it as a baseball player who once played during a Spring Trip at the Citadel. Here’s hoping you can keep cranking out more semi-autobiographical books. They are easy to read and easy to get lost in.

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