First woman to join Corps of Cadets at The Citadel returns for Pat Conroy event

The Citadel hosted a daylong event to honor Lowcounty author Pat Conroy. (Source: Live 5)
The Citadel hosted a daylong event to honor Lowcounty author Pat Conroy. (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Shannon Faulkner walked on The Citadel's campus today for the first time since 2005 to celebrate the life of the late Pat Conroy, a graduate of The Citadel and an accomplished Lowcountry author.

The daylong event featured presentations and panels with guests that included Conroy's friends and loved ones.

Faulkner made international headlines when she became the first woman to join the Corps of Cadets at The Citadel in 1995. She was admitted to the college in 1993 after she did not indicate her gender on her application.

Faulkner said this was her first time being invited to the campus.

"There was a lot of emotion in that first trip onto campus, especially yesterday," Faulkner said.

As Faulkner engaged in a two-year legal battle with The Citadel, she said Pat Conroy called her to say he would work to help Faulkner join the Corps of Cadets at The Citadel.

“Pat was one of the people who came out in support of me early on," Faulkner said. "He called me periodically and would just cheer me on.”

During the symposium, Faulkner reflected on fond memories of Conroy. She detailed their conversations during her fight with the school, his role as a mentor in her life and their occasional correspondence years after 1995.

Faulkner, who is now an educator in Greenville County, also explained she has no negative feelings toward the school, and she considers herself a part of The Citadel family.

Faulkner said her decision to reconcile with the school was largely due to Conroy's influence.

"It was actually one of his last requests, was that I make peace with the school," Faulkner said.

Conroy, a 1967 graduate of The Citadel, was the author of 12 books including "The Great Santini," "The Lords of Discipline" and "The Prince of Tides." All of those titles were set in the Lowcountry.

In 2000, Conroy received an honorary degree from The Citadel alongside Thomas Nugent Courvoisier who was the subject of Conroy's book, The Boo, which is about Courvoisier's time as the college's assistant commandant in charge of discipline.

A year later, Conroy accepted an invitation from the president of The Citadel to be the commencement speaker for The Citadel Class of 2001.

Conroy died in 2016.

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