Pat Conroy

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Donald Patrick "Pat" Conroy (October 26, 1945 – March 4, 2016) was an American author who wrote several acclaimed novels and memoirs. Two of his novels, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, were made into Oscar-nominated films. He is recognized as a leading figure of late-20th century Southern literature.


  • Nancy Mace has written a wonderful, timeless memoir of the great test to become the first female graduate of The Citadel. Her book is provocative, hilarious, illuminating, and true. It is also a love letter to her college and the best book about The Citadel ever written.
    • Conroy's praise for In The Company Of Men (2001), by Nancy Mace, first-ever female graduate of The Citadel, displayed on the back of the dust jacket for the hardcover edition.
  • Virginia's Ring is a triumph and a tour de force. Lynn Seldon has written one of the best books about a military college ever written. With the publication of Virginia's Ring, he joins the distinguished ranks of our military academy graduates who have written about the life changing, fire tested tribe. It reminded me of James Webb's A Sense of Honor about the Naval Academy and Lucian Truscott's Dress Gray about West Point. But Mr. Seldon makes Virginia Military Institute a great test of the human spirit and one of the best places on earth to earn a college degree.
    • Conroy's advance praise for the novel Virginia's Ring (2014), written and published by Virginia Military Institute, Class of 1983 graduate Lynn Seldon, printed on the first page in the book.

The Boo (1970)[edit]

  • General Clark walked the campus like a retired deity and ignored the general run of cadets.
    • p. 5
  • The Citadel cherishes the belief that the more hardship endured by the young man, the higher the quality of the person who graduates from the system. The Citadel devised a formula years ago to improve the quality of men who walked through her gates. The formula begins with the plebe system. One thing is certain. The plebe system is calculated to be, and generally succeeds in being, a nine month journey through hell. The freshman is beaten, harassed, ridiculed, and humiliated by the upperclassmen who concur and believe in the traditions of the school. Under the pressure of this system, the freshman, in theory, becomes hardened to the savage hardships of the world. Life is tough, the system says, and we are going to make life so tough for you this year that when your marriage dissolves, your child dies unexpectedly, or your platoon is decimated in a surprise attack, you can never say The Citadel didn't prepare you for the worst in life.
    • p. 6-7
  • Cadets are people. Behind the gray suits, beneath the Pom-pom and Shako and above the miraculously polished shoes, blood flows through veins and arteries, hearts thump in a regular pattern, stomachs digest food, and kidneys collect waste. Each cadet is unique, a functioning unit of his own, a distinct and separate integer from anyone else. Part of the irony of military schools stems from the fact that everyone in these schools is expected to act precisely the same way, register the same feelings, and respond in the same prescribed manner. The school erects a rigid structure of rules from which there can be no deviation. The path has already been carved through the forest and all the student must do is follow it, glancing neither to the right nor left, and making goddamn sure he participates in no exploration into the uncharted territory around him. A flaw exists in this system. If every person is, indeed, different from every other person, then he will respond to rules, regulations, people, situations, orders, commands, and entreaties in a way entirely depending on his own individual experiences. Te cadet who is spawned in a family that stresses discipline will probably have less difficulty in adjusting than the one who comes from a broken home, or whose father is an alcoholic, or whose home is shattered by cruel arguments between the parents. Yet no rule encompasses enough flexibility to offer a break to a boy who is the product of one of these homes.
    • p. 10
  • Graduation was nice. General Clark liked it. The Board of Visitors liked it. Moms and Dads liked it. And the Cadets hated it, for without a doubt it ranked as the most boring event of the year. Thus it was in 1964 that the Clarey twins pulled the graduation classic. When Colonel Hoy called the name of the first twin, instead of walking directly to General Clark to receive his diploma, he headed for the line of visiting dignitaries, generals, and members of the Board of Visitors who sat in a solemn semi-circle around the stage. He shook hands with the first startled general, then proceeded to shake hands and exchange pleasantries with every one on the stage. He did this so quickly that it took several moments for the whole act to catch on. When it finally did, the Corps went wild. General Clark, looking like he had just learned the Allies had surrendered to Germany, stood dumbfounded with Clarey number one's diploma hanging loosely from his hand; then Clarey number two started down the line, repeating the virtuoso performance of Clarey number one, as the Corps whooped and shouted their approval. The first Clarey grabbed his diploma from Clark and pumped his hand vigorously up and down. Meanwhile, his brother was breezing through the hand-shaking exercise. As both of them left the stage, they raised their diplomas above their heads and shook them like war tomahawks at the wildly applauding audience. No graduation is remembered so well.
    • p. 33
  • One problem the museum has always had in the eyes of some cadets is its worship of General Mark Clark. One whole room of the museum is dedicated to the propagation of Clark's exploits through two wars. The room itself is dark, an inner sanctum lit with tabernacle lights, and smoking with a kind of mystical incense which seems to compliment the godly aura of the man himself... Statues of Clark, pictures of Clark, letters from Clark, letters to Clark, speeches by Clark, and a seemingly endless amount of Clark memorabilia helps make the museum a monument to his career. If any pictures were available of Clark walking on water or changing wine into water, they would be dutifully placed in the museum by people who suffer guilt feelings that The Citadel has never produced an international figure of its own.
    • p. 95

The Water is Wide (1972)[edit]

  • The Southern school superintendent is a kind of remote deity who breathes the purer air of Mount Parnassus. The teachers see him only on those august occasions when they need to be reminded of the nobility of their calling. The powers of a superintendent are considerable. He hires and fires, manipulates the board of education, handles a staggering amount of money, and maintains the precarious existence of the status quo.
    • p. 11
  • It was so easy before. Segregation was such an easy thing. The dichotomy of color in the schools made administration so pleasant... It was once so much nicer. They controlled black principals who shuffled properly, who played the role of downcast eyes and easy niggers, and who sold their own children and brothers on the trading block of their own security. These men helped grease the path of the South's Benningtons and Piedmonts as they slid through the years. The important things were order, control, obedience, and smooth sailing. As long as a school looked good and children behaved properly and troublemakers were rooted out, the system held up and perpetuated itself. As long as blacks and whites remained apart- with the whites singing "Dixie" and the blacks singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing," with the whites getting scholarships and the blacks getting jobs picking cotton and tomatoes, with the whites going to college and the blacks eating moon pies and drinking Doctor Pepper- the Piedmonts and Benningtons could weather any storm or surmount any threat. All of this ended with the coming of integration to the South.
    • p. 311
  • During the entire period of my banishment and trial, I wanted to tell Piedmont and Bennington that what was happening between us was not confined to Beaufort, South Carolina. I wanted to tell them about the river that was rising quickly, flooding the marshes and threatening the dry land. I wanted them to know that their day was ending. When I saw them at the trial, I knew that they were the soldiers of the rear guard, captains of a doomed army retreating through the snow and praying that the quick, dark wolves, waiting in the cold, would come no closer. They were old men and could not accept the new sun rising out of the strange waters. The world was very different now.
    • p. 311-312
  • The South of humanity and goodness is slowly rising out of the fallen temple of hatred and white man's nationalism. The town retains her die-hards and nigger-haters and always will. Yet they grow older and crankier with each passing day. When Beaufort digs another four hundred holes in her plentiful grave-yards, deposits there the rouged and elderly corpses, and covers them with the sandy, lowcountry soil, then another whole army of the Old South will be silenced and not heard from again. The religion of the Confederacy and apartheid will one day be subdued by the passage of years. The land will be the final arbiter of human conflict; no matter how intense the conflict, the victory of earth and grave will be complete.
    • p. 313

The Lords of Discipline (1980)[edit]

  • I wear the ring.
    • p. 1
  • I have never had to look up a definition of honor. I knew instinctively what it was. It is something I had the day I was born, and I never had to question where it came from or by what right it was mine. If I was stripped of my honor, I would choose death as certainly and unemotionally as I clean my shoes in the morning. Honor is the presence of God in man.
    • p. 46. Said by character General Bentley Durrell.
  • "I didn't get the point", said Pig. "That's because you've got four pounds of provolone where most people got brains!", Mark shouted, shaking his fist. "This is college, you dumb bastard. This is a place where you're supposed to argue and learn and get pissed off. You don't go around choking your buddies just because they don't happen to believe what you believe."
    • p. 88
  • Matt Ledbetter cleared his throat and spoke to me in a voice trembling with emotion. "Will, that freshman doesn't belong in this school. We've got to run him out of here. We can't help it if he cries. He cries every time we look at him. He simply doesn't belong here. It'll be better for him and the other knobs when he goes." "Last year, you were a freshman, Matt. This year you're God." "He doesn't belong here, Will. It's our duty to run him out. We owe it to the Institute. We owe it to the line." "Your duty?" I asked him. "Our duty," Matt replied.
    • p. 96
  • It was dangerous to have a sadist in the barracks, especially one who justified his excesses by religiously invoking the sacrosanct authority of the plebe system. The system contained its own high quotient of natural cruelty, and there was a very thin line between devotion to duty, that is, being serious about the plebe system, which was an exemplary virtue in the barracks, and genuine sadism, which was not. But I had noticed that in the actual hierarchy of values at the Institute, the sadist like Snipes rated higher than someone who took no interest in the freshmen and entertained no belief in the system at all. In the Law of the Corps it was better to carry your beliefs to an extreme than to be faithless. For the majority of the Corps, the only sin of the sadist was that he believed in the system too passionately and applied his belief with an overabundant zeal. Because of this, the barracks at all times provided a safe regency for the sadist and almost all of them earned rank. My sin was harder to figure. I did not participate at all in the rituals of the plebe system. Cruelty was easier to forgive than apostasy.
    • p. 96
  • I developed The Great Teacher theory late in my freshman year. It was a cornerstone of the theory that great teachers had great personalities and that the greatest teachers had outrageous personalities. I did not like decorum or rectitude in a classroom; I preferred a highly oxygenated atmosphere, a climate of intemperance, rhetoric, and feverish melodrama. And I wanted my teachers to make me smart. A great teacher is my adversary, my conqueror, commissioned to chastise me. He leaves me tame and grateful for the new language he has purloined from other kings whose granaries are filled and whose libraries are famous. He tells me that teaching is the art of theft; knowing what to steal and from whom. Bad teachers do not touch me; the great ones never leave me. They ride with me during all my days, and I pass on to others what they have imparted to me. I exchange their handy gifts with strangers on trains, and I pretend the gifts are mine. I steal from the great teachers. And the truly wonderful thing about them is that they would applaud my theft, laugh at the thought of it, realizing that they had taught me their larcenous skills well.
    • p. 271
  • It is a nation of contradictions, sir. Consider this: Ireland is an island nation that has never developed a navy; a music-loving people who have produced only those harmless lilting ditties as their musical legacy; a bellicose people who have never known the sweet savor of victory in a single war; a Catholic country that has never produced a single doctor of the Church; a magnificently beautiful country, a country to inspire artists, but a country not yet immortalized in art; a philosophic people yet to produce a single philosopher of note; a sensual people who have never mastered the art of preparing food.
    • p 274. Said by character Colonel Edward T. Reynolds.
  • The drums ceased and the parade ground was as silent as an inland sea. At the other end of the parade ground, I heard Gauldin Grace's harsh, overextended voice screaming out the findings of the honor court. "Gentlemen, the honor court has met tonight and has found Pignetti, D.A., Company R, guilty of the honor code violation of stealing. His name will never be spoken by any man from Carolina Military Institute. He will never return to the campus so long as he may live. His name and memory are anathema to anyone who aspires to wear the ring. Let him go from us and never be heard from again. Let him begin the Walk of Shame."
    • p. 439
  • When the ceremony was over, I found The Bear and handed him my diploma along with a ballpoint pen. "What's this for, lamb?" "I want you to sign it, Colonel. I want you to make it official," I answered. "I wan the name of a man I can respect on my diploma, Colonel." He handed me back the diploma without signing it. "There already is, Bubba," he answered. "There already is." And he pointed to my name.
    • p. 498

Eulogy for a Fighter Pilot (1998)[edit]

Eulogy delivered by Conroy at the funeral of his father, Colonel Don Conroy, USMC, in 1998. [citation needed]

  • Donald Conroy is the only person I have ever known whose self-esteem was absolutely unassailable. There was not one thing about himself that my father did not like, nor was there one thing about himself that he would change. He simply adored the man he was and walked with perfect confidence through every encounter in his life. Dad wished everyone could be just like him. His stubbornness was an art form. The Great Santini did what he did, when he wanted to do it, and woe to the man who got in his way. Once I introduced my father before he gave a speech to an Atlanta audience. I said at the end of the introduction, "My father decided to go into the Marine Corps on the day he discovered his IQ was the temperature of this room". My father rose to the podium, stared down at the audience, and said without skipping a beat, "My God, it's hot in here! It must be at least 180 degrees".
  • Here is how my father appeared to me as a boy. He came from a race of giants and demi-gods from a mythical land known as Chicago. He married the most beautiful girl ever to come crawling out of the poor and lowborn south, and there were times when I thought we were being raised by Zeus and Athena. After Happy Hour my father would drive his car home at a hundred miles an hour to see his wife and seven children. He would get out of his car, a strapping flight jacketed matinee idol, and walk toward his house, his knuckles dragging along the ground, his shoes stepping on and killing small animals in his slouching amble toward the home place. My sister, Carol, stationed at the door, would call out, "Godzilla's home!" and we seven children would scamper toward the door to watch his entry. The door would be flung open and the strongest Marine aviator on earth would shout, "Stand by for a fighter pilot!" He would then line his seven kids up against the wall and say, "Who's the greatest of them all?" "You are, O Great Santini, you are." "Who knows all, sees all, and hears all?" "You do, O Great Santini, you do." We were not in the middle of a normal childhood, yet none of us were sure since it was the only childhood we would ever have. For all we knew other men were coming home and shouting to their families, "Stand by for a pharmacist," or "Stand by for a chiropractor".
  • The children of fighter pilots tell different stories than other kids do. None of our fathers can write a will or sell a life insurance policy or fill out a prescription or administer a flu shot or explain what a poet meant. We tell of fathers who land on aircraft carriers at pitch-black night with the wind howling out of the China Sea. Our fathers wiped out aircraft batteries in the Philippines and set Japanese soldiers on fire when they made the mistake of trying to overwhelm our troops on the ground. Your Dads ran the barber shops and worked at the post office and delivered the packages on time and sold the cars, while our Dads were blowing up fuel depots near Seoul, were providing extraordinarily courageous close air support to the beleaguered Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, and who once turned the Naktong River red with blood of a retreating North Korean battalion. We tell of men who made widows of the wives of our nations' enemies and who made orphans out of all their children. You don't like war or violence? Or napalm? Or rockets? Or cannons or death rained down from the sky? Then let's talk about your fathers, not ours. When we talk about the aviators who raised us and the Marines who loved us, we can look you in the eye and say "you would not like to have been American's enemies when our fathers passed overhead". We were raised by the men who made the United States of America the safest country on earth in the bloodiest century in all recorded history. Our fathers made sacred those strange, singing names of battlefields across the Pacific: Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh and a thousand more. We grew up attending the funerals of Marines slain in these battles. Your fathers made communities like Beaufort decent and prosperous and functional; our fathers made the world safe for democracy.

Letter to his readers (1998)[edit]

Public letter from Conroy to readers and fans in the aftermath of the death of his father, Colonel Don Conroy, USMC, in 1998. [citation needed]

  • Don Conroy was larger than life and there was never a room he entered that he left without making his mark. At some point in his life, he passed from being merely memorably to being legendary.
  • In the thirty-three years he was in the Marine Corps, Col. Conroy concentrated on the task of defending his country and he did so, exceedingly well. In the next twenty-four years left to him, he put all his efforts into the art of being a terrific father, a loving uncle, a brother of great substance, a beloved grandfather, and a friend to thousands. Out of uniform, the Colonel let his genius for humor flourish. Always in motion he made his rounds in Atlanta each day and no one besides himself knew how many stops he put in during a given day. He was like a bee going from flower to flower, pollinating his world with his generous gift for friendships.
  • Don Conroy died with exemplary courage, as one would expect. He never complained about pain or whimpered or cried out. His death was stoical and quiet. He never quit fighting, never surrendered, and never gave up. He died like a king. He died like The Great Santini. I thank you with all my heart.

Eulogy for "The Boo" (May 3, 2006)[edit]

Eulogy delivered by Conroy at the 2006 funeral of former Assistant Commandant of Cadets at The Citadel and Citadel graduate Thomas Nugent Courvoisie, nicknamed "The Boo" by cadets. [citation needed]

  • Here is what The Boo loved more than The Citadel - nothing, nothing on this Earth. The sun rose on Lesesne Gate and it set on the marshes of the Ashley River and its main job was to keep the parade grounds green. He once told me that a cadet was nothing but a bum, like you, Conroy. But a Corps of Cadets was the most beautiful thing in the world. In World War II, he led an artillery unit during the Battle of the Bulge and he once told me, 'The Germans hated to see me and my boys catch em in the open.' It is my own personal belief that The Boo's own voice was more frightening to the Germans than the artillery fire he was directing toward them.
  • You have never been blessed out or bawled out or chewed out unless you got it from The Boo in his prime. Did I say he was five times louder than God? I'm sorry if that sounds sacrilegious and it certainly is not true. The Boo was at least ten times louder than God and I was scared of him my entire cadet career.
  • 'There was only one cadet I ever really hated. Just one name I can think of,' The Boo said. 'That'll make an interesting story for the book, Colonel. Who is the jerk?' I asked. 'It was you, Conroy. Just you. There was something about you that I hated when you first walked into fourth battalion, you worthless bum.'
  • When I was writing 'The Lords of Discipline,' I went to The Boo for help. 'What makes The Citadel different from all other schools? What makes it different, special and unique? Why do I think it is the best college in the world when I hated it when I was here, Boo? Help me with this.' The Boo held up his hand and said, 'It's the ring, Bubba. Always remember that. The ring, the ring, the ring.' I thought about it for a moment then wrote the words, 'I wear the ring.' 'How about this for a first line?' 'Perfect, Bubba, just perfect.'

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