Citadel Class of 2001: Pat Conroy a huge influence on education

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A crowd of hundreds of people gathered on Tuesday morning for the funeral mass of the beloved writer and storyteller, Pat Conroy.

Conroy died after fighting pancreatic cancer for only a few weeks, at 70 years old.

He wrote 11 books set in the Lowcountry in places like Beaufort and Charleston; a group of the Citadel graduates expressed their gratitude for his influence over their education, specifically to the Class of 2001.

With the sound of bagpipes, the Citadel Class of 2001 stood by. Each was wearing a class ring, as instructed by Pat Conroy himself.

“Certainly, Pat made an impression on them and invited them to his funeral, never knowing when that was happening, but said that they would always be welcome, all they had to do was show their ring and the Class of 2001,” Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa said.

Many felt it was both duty and privilege to attend the funeral.

“To be asked by someone who’s still there in a big part of the Citadel community, to be at a later date funeral, I just felt moved by that,” Class of 2001 graduate Joseph Renwick said.

Renwick remembers Conroy as his commencement speaker who also influenced his education.

“The book ‘Lords of Discipline’ which Pat Conroy was for a time condemned, for having written and published because it told a lot of the secrets of things that go on at the Citadel, or a lot of the perceptions of secrets…it was a larger part for my decision to attend the Citadel,” Renwick said.

He considers his attendance on Tuesday part of paying respect to a ‘brother.’

“Coming and giving him some just dues today just kind of seems symbolic of the full circle,” he said.

“Pat passed away too quickly,” Rosa said. “He was 70 years old. We thought Pat would go into his late years continuing to write.”

Renwick believes Conroy’s influence lives on.

“I wear the ring…that’s all,” he said between tears.

Conroy was laid to rest in a private burial after the ceremony, though the family is not revealing where he is buried yet.

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