“Writers of the world, if you’ve got a story, I want to hear it. I promise it will follow me to my last breath.”—Pat Conroy
To paraphrase Pat, we told many of our donors that if they had a story to share we want to hear it. How about you? If you are a donor TELL US YOUR STORY.
From the beginning of time stories have been created and shared as a way to make sense of our world. And we never outgrow the need to hear them.
Since starting The Pat Conroy Literary Center we have come to know many of our donors. And it is no surprise to us that they are both fascinating and diverse. While Pat liked telling stories, he most liked hearing them. There was never a more eloquent listener than Pat Conroy, a man who drew stories out of everyone he met. He collected them the way some collect stamps or gems; he hoarded them, and used them to sustain him through hard times. He taught us the profound importance of listening.
Many of our donors have shared with us meaningful and touching stories about Pat, about reading and writing, and about their lives. Some of these stories are below, in our “Donor Stories” section. For it is through listening to our donor friends — a far flung tribe of passionate readers and writers — that the Center can better define its mission, its challenges and its future.
Your story can be as long or as brief as you care to make it. We’d like to hear from you! Either click the button or send your story to the email address below.
Mihai Radulescu, founding board member.
Click a name to open their story
It is an honor to contribute to a Center that supports readers as well as writers at the start of their careers.
I met Pat when he was a young man new to publishing, I was a sales representative working for Houghton Mifflin, the publisher of The Water is Wide. We met Pat at our sales conference where they were presenting his first novel “The Great Santini”. I later escorted him when he came to Chicago on book tour, and witnessed his openness with interviewers and booksellers, watched as he took time to autograph every book within sight while chatting with the customer; even when books on hand ran out, Pat stayed on to sign book plates for later insertion. He was just learning how to act with booksellers and interviewers but he quickly became every booksellers’ favorite author
It wasn’t long before Pat and the sales reps became a sort of family, and we would “reune” at many booksellers’ annual conventions. I cherish a letter he wrote me a few years ago in which he said he still told stories about his travels with book reps in cities all over the country. We were “stunned” that he remembered so much about his time with us. “I was raised up by the great sales reps of Houghton Mifflin. You guys taught me how to act,” he wrote to me. This is how I remember Pat Conroy. He was a friend and writer who was unfailingly grateful to those who helped him along the way and the only author in my nearly 50 years in the book business who I believe remained true to himself.
Schuyler Huntoon – Fairfield, CT
Thank you for your kind note; I am sure that I couldn’t have donated to a better cause. I am not only devoted to Pat Conroy’s novels, but I had the chance to meet Pat in Chicago in 1996 at a book signing for Beach Music. He was delightful. He signed my page ‘All Love,” and he did indeed come across as a very loving man. I hope future generations will be as touched by his writing as I always was. He combined brilliant storytelling with the ability to create memorable characters and emotional impact, and his sense of humor was unparalleled. I want his memory to live on forever!
My story, briefly, is that I am an ordained Presbyterian Minister, born and raised in New York City, currently serving as a hospital chaplain in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I also do a lot of guest preaching at the local churches. Ministry is my second career: prior to this I was a lawyer in Chicago, specializing in child abuse and neglect cases. I am also a (not yet published) writer of fiction, inspired largely by Pat Conroy and especially The Great Santini. I have completed a young adult novel manuscript about the teenage daughter of a New York City firefighter missing and presumed dead after 9/11. I think of it as the story of Santini’s daughter surviving the attacks. I hope Conroy would approve.
A lot will depend on my work scheduled, but I would love to attend the next Conroy literary festival. I have never been to the Deep South, so the trip would be fascinating on many levels. I’ll let you know as soon as I am sure. It would be wonderful to meet you and see all your work in person.
Elizabeth D. – Cedar Rapids, IA
I am 62 years old, the 4th of 5 kids born and raised in CT. Of the 5, my father chose me to abuse. He beat me mercilessly. It was only when I had grown to 6’2″, at age 14 that he hit me for the last time. But not long after, I began to get high, and I eventually found myself in jail. I knew deep inside I headed for a fall, I’m just glad I didn’t hurt anyone other than myself. In jail I began counseling with a psychologist named Dr. Lathey. One day he asked me if I had ever read Pat Conroy. He told me to read Beach Music.
I was and still am a voracious reader and at the time I was the librarian at the jail. I was thrilled to find a beat up copy of Beach Music there. I wasn’t very far into the book when I knew I was reading something special. Pat’s words took me away from the horrible place I was in and gave me hours of relief and healing. Pat was an artist, and he painted with words. I couldn’t put the book down, and for the last 50 pages or so, I cried like a baby. I cried the tears of a man moved by the best book I had ever read. When I finished Beach Music I made it a point to read every word Pat had written…. It was Pat who got me through the absolute lowest, and worst time of my life, and I am just sorry I never met him to thank him in person.
When we lost him we lost one of the greatest writers of our time. When you contacted me about donating to the center I was thrilled to see that his legacy will live on in such a wonderful venture, a literary center. Somewhere Pat is smiling as he watches this fine place grow.
Edwin L. – Newport, CT
I am connected to the Conroy family in a couple ways. I had the honor of being acquainted with Pat and so appreciate the continuing gift Cassandra is to our community. Also, Pat’s sister Kathy is a friend.
Some years ago, Pat and I met when we each spoke at an event to raise money for the United Way. As we chatted prior to speaking, we realized that in addition to a sharing an appreciation for the good works of the United Way, we also shared a wonderful friend, Mina, who happened to be our trainer. Of course, and in addition to the personal connection, I love Pat’s turn of phrase, his body of work and most of all – his giving heart and his Cassandra.
I provided a small bit of labor and organizational support when he and Mina launched their fitness studio and was an early contributor to the center with a donation made through my business.
Probably more than you wanted to know but hope I shed a little light on my connection to the center and love for Pat, Cassandra, family and his legacy.
Sharon D – Beaufort, SC
It is a privilege for me to be able to contribute. If I had a million dollars to invest, it still would not equal the joy that Pat Conroy’s writing has brought to me through the years.
I heard Pat once speaking at my alma mater, University of West Georgia, as part of a Peachtree Lecture Series of Southern Writers including Olive Ann Burns and Anne Rivers Siddons. He was preparing for the launch of The Prince of Tides. I was entranced by his gift of language and as a storyteller. Later, while I lived outside the South as a corporate nomad for about 25 years, each subsequent book took me on a virtual trip back home and made me even more determined to one day return to the South to live… which I finally did last summer. I had been monitoring Pat’s website and social media outlets for news of a possible tour which would give me a chance to possibly hear him speak again when I heard the sad news of his cancer diagnosis. Like all of you, I was hopeful he would beat it. You see, I am a cancer survivor…
… Please extend my deepest sympathy to Cassandra King; I am sure his presence is deeply missed in her world.
Debbie B. – Carrollton, GA
I first met Pat when he was leaving his therapist visits, and I was getting out of class. Our paths crossed and, of course, I knew who he was. Each Monday we would meet and exchange niceties… the convention of the Deep South. But one day, he had a copy of the New Yorker article on Shannon Faulkner stuck in his book as he left. I bravely asked him what he thought. He looked at me skeptically and asked if I knew who he was? I turned the question right back to him asking him if he knew who I was? Neither answered, and both laughed and introduced ourselves.
It was the beginning of a long friendship of over 20 years. With my work, I certainly needed his help furthering the cause of education and the arts. Pat was always willing to help. We asked him to be the speaker at a fundraising event for the University’s arts center. He said yes. On his birthday, October 26, 2014, he spoke about his newly released book, “The Death of Santini.” After the talk, we had a cocktail party for donors and for the entire party, Pat signed his books… for hours… vintage Pat Conroy. Always willing to talk to his readers to hear their stories. This event led to the Pat Conroy at Seventy that ultimately has become the Pat Conroy Literary Festival, now held each fall by the Center.
When Cassandra asked me to come on the Center Board and chair the effort, of course, I said yes. I was happy to do it because Pat was such a giver. The Center’s vision that “every voice has a story that needs to be heard” says it best. As the Center continues to grow and develop, I hope the programming we present helps those who are touched find their voice to tell their story. It is a great honor to be a donor of time, talent and resources to make this vision a reality. I hope you join us
Jane U. – Bluffton, SC
Yes, there are several connections with Pat. The first one in 1987 in Cincinnati, Ohio where Pat was at a book signing for Beach Music—my favorite Conroy book. We spoke like old friends because that’s the way he was.
Fast forward to 2014 (27 years later) when my husband and I have moved to Beaufort and attended a book signing reception that Pat was hosting. I introduced myself and told him about our encounter in 1987—and like the true Southern gentleman he was, he said, of course, he remembered me and we chatted again like old friends.
I was there to celebrate his 70th as he and I are the same age and I purchased tickets to most of the events. I made a stock donation to the center and I was also at the recent unveiling of his portrait and spoke briefly to the artist and to Will as I would like to be a volunteer when my schedule allows.
Oh, I’m also a writer and Pat’s love of words—the music he infused them with—has always given me courage to keep writing.
Thank you for contacting me with such a personal ‘thank you’. That’s a rare thing these days and exactly what Pat would have done.
Donna A. – Beaufort, SC
… We are retirees living on Hilton Head. I was an educator in Fairfax County, VA. My husband worked for the City of Falls Church, VA. We moved into The Seabrook retirement community on Hilton Head almost four years ago. My love for Pat Conroy began when I saw the movie Conrack and it has continued since. I have visited the Center and appreciate the work that is being done there.
Nancy B. – Hilton Head, SC
I’ll never forget the summer I read my first Pat Conroy book. I was sixteen and living in Murrells Inlet, SC. Due to an unfortunate incident with my car and a mailbox, I took my first job booking parasail trips out of a local marina to help pay for damages. This was a glorious summer before social media, electronic reading devices and text messages. I spent it water skiing, mudding, fishing, night-swimming and reading books while waiting on the phone to ring at work. Beach Music had me captivated from the minute I opened it and I’m pretty sure I neglected some of my duties at work to finish it. In fact, I had tears streaming down my face when I closed the book and looked up to a not so pleased customer tapping their foot. I mourned finishing the book because I knew I wouldn’t find anything else to compare. I often go back to Beach Music and will always consider to be the first book I ever read.
When I first heard of Pat Conroy’s death, I picked it up and read it again, each time relating to another part of the story. Pat captured the Lowcountry like no other and I think of his prose more than any other when I find myself lost in its beauty.
I donated to this foundation in memory of my son, Thomas Slade Dozier, Jr. who unexpectedly left us in April 2015 at the age of 18 months. His twin sister is smart, sassy, obsessed with “Lowcountry water” and I have a sneaking suspicion will grow to love Conroy’s works. Having Slade’s name on the donation is my way of keeping him an ever-present part of those things I hold near and dear to me.
My donation comes with the hope that future generations of kids can appreciate all that Pat Conroy embodied and I look forward to supporting the literary center for many years to come.
In Faith, Hope and Love
Laura Sanders Dozier, wife, mother, CRNA, co-founder and vice-chairman of Slade Dozier Foundation, and devoted Pat Conroy reader.
Laura Sanders Dozier – Mount Pleasant, SC
I cannot find the words to explain my connection to Pat Conroy, his writing, his love of words, his love of the lowcountry, and his love of people; there is something beyond me that draws me in.
On my first trip to Beaufort years ago, I bought his entire library from “Bay Street Trading” and waited months to have the copies delivered to my home in Nevada; all personally signed to me. I returned to Beaufort for the release of South of Broad and had my copy as well as cookbooks signed to me. These are my treasured keepsake!
My husband and I came to Beaufort again and had a beautiful visit to the Pat Conroy Literary Center, I waited the longest time to sit in Pat Conroy’s chair and run my hand along the desk because I knew I would cry; It was truly an honor to be there and I appreciate all the hard work and dedication everyone involved has put into the creation and vision for the center. It will prosper; it will mold and guide writers; it will be a place for family, friends and fans to gather and remember; and it will be a place to make new memories.
I have a home in Beaufort now and am committed to help in any way I can. I look forward to being part of the legacy that is Pat Conroy.
Caren W. – Beaufort, SC
My story with Pat started in college. I grew up in Morgantown West Virginia, most people haven’t been there but it is – like many other small cities with large land grant universities – a haven of academics and culture in an otherwise fairly conservative and religious state. I grew up in an academic family because my Grandfather moved to Morgantown in 1958 to be a professor of Physics and ended up being Chairman of the department. Two of my closest friends were twins from Nitro, WV. The girls were horrified when parents from their high school and a few others in the area started a movement to have Prince of Tides banned from the school literature. When they heard about this they were furious and said Prince of Tides was one of the most real, riveting and raw books that they were able to read in their AP English class. So, they wanted to do something on behalf of the cause and they asked for my help. I hadn’t read Pat’s books at the time but I was opposed to banning any book of course! So I helped them write a letter. Like Pat, I have a tendency towards super overblown humor and eccentricity but it was a fun project and I felt that it was really important. This letter and others, as you might remember, spurred Pat writing this letter: http://www.patconroy.com/articles_cg-10-07.php
God, it felt like an honor, like one small victory to all of us who got involved in this cause and who wanted to live in and be a part of a bigger life than the ones allowed by our high schools and communities. I am moved every time I read his letter.
Anyway, shortly after his letter appeared I read everything written by Pat Conroy that I could get my hands on. When My Reading Life came out, I wished that I could be lucky enough to have someone like Pat in my life to draw me into the tomes of literature I hadn’t yet explored. I felt inspired by him. When the Cookbook came out I worshipped it for two years. I can’t explain the connection but it was strong, I’m sure you’ve read a thousand stories like mine.
I planned to attend his Birthday Party but a family thing with my Grandmother came up that prevented my attendance. I never dreamed he would be dead so soon after. It broke my heart that I missed a chance to meet him. It is one of my great regrets, really.
I live in Boston now at a demanding job and don’t get to write as much as I’d like to but I would love to find ways to connect with the creative side of me! I donate to the center as a conduit to do something good and to continue Pat’s influence.
Anastasia Pavlovic – Boston, MA
I will never forget the experience of reading my first Pat Conroy book. It was THE PRINCE OF TIDES and I was in my early twenties by the time I got a hold of my mom’s paperback. I was an avid reader with dreams of someday becoming a writer, but as I read the first few pages of Conroy’s book, I knew I held something very special in my hands. I raced through the pages (as much as one can race through a 500+ page book!), and when I reached the end, I needed a few moments of breathless silence in which to recover, before I turned back to page one and started all over again. The second reading was for savoring, and the pure poetry of his words and his message have stayed with me for all of these years.
Fast forward to a few decades later, and I’m a #1 NYT bestselling author, with 21 published novels and millions of copies in print, and I’m hosting a dinner party where two of the invited guests- Mary Elizabeth Sherbert and Theresa Jackson – turn out to be friends of Pat Conroy’s. I was overcome with excitement that they knew one of my literary heroes, and Mary Elizabeth was kind enough to offer to bring back a signed copy of one of my books for Pat. It was a great feeling to be connected to him, even in a remote way, and when I received news of his passing a short while later, like the rest of his readers and fans, I grieved for the loss of such a great man.
Then I saw a post about the Literary Center and wanted to contribute. I hope to add to that donation in the future. Thanks for reaching out and for all of your hard work!
Alyson Noel – Dana Point, CA
Pat Conroy is one of my favorite authors. I truly appreciate a great story; I loved the way he told us people’s stories. He was “The Best”.
I have been a fan for years and I was so fortunate to exchange a few words with him at his Birthday Celebration in 2015. I live in Ohio approximately 7 months of the year and Callawassie Island, SC 5 months of the year. My husband and I love Beaufort and all of the Low Country.
I belong to a Book Group at Callawassie…