Before he was a bestselling author, Pat Conroy taught at Beaufort High School and on Daufuskie Island.
He later rankled administrators at his alma mater, The Citadel, with his depiction of the Charleston military college in his books. Before the Beaufort author’s death in March 2016, he had been working on a new novel based on those years as a young teacher at Beaufort High.
It’s against this backdrop — Conroy’s life as an educator — that the second annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival forged its theme. The four-day event begins Oct. 19 at USC Beaufort Center for the Arts and will explore “the transformative power of education.”
Panel participants include Conroy’s former teachers, students and Citadel professors who have taught his work for years.
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“I suppose the biggest difference from this year to last year is there are more (events) rooted in Pat’s experience,” said Jonathan Haupt, director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center. “It’s a Conroy festival in that sense.”
Here are three planned events not to miss:
Roam the halls Conroy roamed
Conroy’s former students, classmates and teachers offer a tour of the former Beaufort High School building — now Beaufort Middle School — on Mossy Oaks Road.
After the tour, which requires a ticket, is a free panel discussion including Conroy’s former teaching colleagues. The discussion will include the period that formed the basis for the novel Conroy was writing before his death.
A 50th reunion
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Conroy’s graduating class of 1967 at The Citadel.
The festival will include a screening of “Lords of Discipline,” followed by a discussion with Conroy classmates John Warley and Scott Graber. The Citadel professors who have taught Conroy’s work will talk about his effect on the school.
The experience of teaching on a remote island
Conroy famously translated his experience teaching on Daufuskie Island into the book “The Water is Wide.” The book was made into a 1974 movie called “Conrack.” USCB and Beaufort Theatre Company will perform “Conrack the Musical” during the festival in October. Bill Dufford, Conroy’s principal at Beaufort High during the 1960s, will speak after the performance on Oct. 22. Dufford’s appearance will coincide with the release of a memoir on his years as principal and later efforts to integrate South Carolina communities, Haupt said.