Board of Directors
Jane T. Upshaw, PHD, is the Distinguished Chancellor Emerita of the University of South Carolina Beaufort. She spent almost thirty years at the University as an instructor, a professor, Director of Development, Dean of the Beaufort Campus. In 2002 she became its founding chancellor, leading the transformation of the campus into a separately accredited comprehensive baccalaureate university, not only a full-service institution but the fastest growing comprehensive university in South Carolina. Her work in the University’s growth and development and her commitment to community outreach have brought her local, regional and national recognition. Although she retired from USCB in 2015, she continues to be active professionally speaking, consulting, and volunteering. She and Pat were friends for many years both having shared a life passion and commitment to education.
Cassandra King is the award-winning author of five novels, a book of nonfiction, numerous short stories, essays, and magazine articles, most recently appearing in Coastal Living and Southern Living. Her New York Times and USA Today bestselling second novel, The Sunday Wife, was a People magazine Page-Turner, a South Carolina’s Readers Circle choice, and named as one of Book Sense’s top reading group selections. Also a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, The Same Sweet Girls was a number one Book Sense selection on release. Both novels were nominated for SIBA’s Book of the Year. Moonrise was a SIBA Okra Pick and bestseller, as was The Same Sweet Girls Guide to Life: Advice from a Failed Southern Belle. Recently honored as a 2017 Alabama Humanities Foundation Fellow, her most recent book is a memoir Tell Me A Story about life with her late husband, Pat Conroy.
Marly Rusoff, founder of The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, is a former publishing executive at Houghton Mifflin, Doubleday, and William Morrow, and current president of Marly Rusoff Literary Agency. She has worked with hundreds of authors in various capacities over the years. Marly has served on boards of several nonprofit organizations including The Loft, Teachers & Writers, The Anne Frank Center, and The International Peace Academy. She first met Pat in her bookstore when she was a young bookseller in Minneapolis where he had brought his daughters to visit his sister Carol. During that time, he vacationed on the North Shore of Lake Superior and was introduced to a vibrant community of poets and journal writers. Before becoming Pat Conroy’s literary agent, she orchestrated the publicity launches of a number of his books including The Prince of Tides and Beach Music. She and Pat were friends for more than thirty-five years.
Tim Conroy has dedicated his professional life to creating meaningful and effective collaborations between families and professionals to support students with disabilities. He is a former special education teacher, school administrator, and Vice President of the South Carolina Autism Society. During his long career in education, he also served as an education associate in the Office of Exceptional Children and in the Office of School Quality for the South Carolina Department of Education. He has co-authored articles on special education topics including an article appearing in the 2013 Fordham Urban Law Journal. He has a daily love affair with poetry and several of his pieces have been published in literary journals. His beloved brother, Pat Conroy, provided him constant encouragement to unmask a true self in writing, to embrace the vibrancy of language, to read constantly, and to risk treacherous currents. Tim’s first book of poems, Theologies of Terrain, was published in October 2017.
Mihai (Michael) Radulescu was born in Romania where he earned a law degree and a degree in architecture. He defected from the communist regime and on the way to Australia, he met Marly Rusoff and settled in New York City where he opened an architectural services business catering to some of the largest firms in the city such as Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum and Skidmore Owings & Merrill. He worked in real estate in Westchester County, New York, before joining Marly Rusoff Literary Agency where he is the director of foreign rights and CFO. He also manages the agency’s web site and oversees Pat Conroy’s online presence. Pat often embarrassed Mihai by calling him “The Prince of Romania.” Like so many, “The Prince of Romania” sorely misses “The Prince of Words.”
Esther Shaver Harnett owned Shaver’s Bookstore in Savannah for forty years. She had the honor to be one of Pat’s friends and to have hosted book signings for him since 1995. Pat’s loyalty to independent booksellers made him the most beloved of Southern authors. Esther has served on non-profit boards for many years, including the boards of the Southeast Booksellers Association and the Coastal Heritage Society. She is now retired and lives in Beaufort, SC among the beautiful coastal marshes brought alive by Pat’s books.
This is a one year rotating position for the daughters of Pat Conroy: Jessica, Melissa, Megan and Susannah Conroy.
Jessica Lynn Conroy is Pat’s oldest daughter. An educator and mother, she lives in Atlanta; she is the first to occupy daughter’s position on the board.
Roland Gardner’s life has been dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of Lowcountry residents. He became the Chief Executive Officer of the Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services (BJHCHS) in 1980, a multi-specialty medical center that provides comprehensive health care to more than 17,000 patients in three counties, which he was instrumental in building from a small organization into a much larger multi-specialty health care system. Gardner received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award for Health Care in 1996 and the Pioneer Appreciation Person of the Year Award from the Southeastern Rural Assistance Project. In 2004, he was inducted into the National Grassroots Policy Hall of Fame by the National Association of Community Health Centers, and in 2012, Kathleen Sebelius, the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, appointed him to the National Advisory Council for Rural Health and Human Services. A native of St. Helena Island, he now lives with his wife Connie on an adjoining island. They have two adult daughters. Friends since high school, Pat always enjoyed listening to Roland’s stories about local history, the Penn Center, and the island cultures around Beaufort.
Deborah Smith recently retired from twenty year stint as Executive Director of the Newberry, SC Opera House. During her tenure she not only revived the music center but the town itself.
When Deborah came to Newberry, the Opera House was nothing but a dilapidated building with the threat of being torn down. She helped raise the $5.5 million needed for that structure then over the years converted the local fire station into a busy conference center. She managed and directed a 426 seat theater that hosted approximately 250 shows a year, bringing both fame and the famous to Newberry. From a financial view, the numbers are staggering. Harry Miley, the former head of the Budget and Control Board for South Carolina, has estimated that the Newberry Opera House has had an economic impact of over $500 million.
Deborah graduated from Elmira College in New York, earned a Masters of Arts from the University of Vienna, and completed further graduate studies at Yale. Highly regarded on the national arts scene, she has served on numerous panels for the National Endowment of the Arts, the South Carolina Arts Commission, and the Vermont Commission for the Arts, the Connecticut Commission for the Arts, and The Association of Entertainment Professionals (AEP) Worldwide.
Beaufort native Valerie Sayers is the author of six novels, including her most recent, The Powers. Brain Fever and Who Do You Love? were named “Notable Books” by the New York Times, and a film, Due East, was based on Due East and How I Got Him Back. Her stories and essays appear widely and have received a Pushcart Prize and citations from Best American Stories and Best American Essays. Recipient of an NEA fellowship in literature, Sayers is professor of English at the University of Notre Dame.