Pat Conroy Literary Center: A Year in Review, A Year in Preview

“Pat Conroy was different from others at the top of his craft, different in his generosity. He was a champion, even for those who pretended not to need one…. Because of him, we see the good in Santini, and know that any man, no matter how wounded or damaged, can be a prince of tides.”—Rick Bragg

In this season of giving, the Pat Conroy Literary Center is grateful for the extraordinary gifts of time and talent shared freely by our pantheon of volunteers, advisors, and board members with the thousands of visitors and program participants we have hosted in our second full year of operations. And we are grateful as well to the exceptional generosity of our many donors in and well beyond the lowcountry who continue to make this dream possible through their stalwart support. Here is a look back at some highlights from 2018 and a glimpse forward into 2019.

The NEW Pat Conroy Literary Center

Thanks to the generosity of Dick Stewart and the Beaufort Inn, the Conroy Center was able to relocate into our new and expanded location at 905 Port Republic Street, opening doors for new permanent exhibition materials, touring and temporary exhibits, public programming held within the Conroy Center, and additional gift shop items for writers, readers, teachers, and students.
The Conroy Center is currently hosting the Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy Portraits Exhibition featuring sketches by artist and author Nicole Seitz of the 67 contributing writers to the recently published anthology honoring Pat as a lifelong mentor and champion of his fellow writers. By the time this article is published, the Conroy Center will also be proudly displaying a new official portrait of Pat by Beaufort-based portrait artist Susan Graber. There is always a good reason to make a first visit—or a return visit—to the Conroy Center, where admission is entirely free and donations are greatly appreciated.
March Forth
Our second annual March Forth on March Fourth, commemorating the anniversary of Pat Conroy’s death, honors Pat’s last act as a teacher with a day of learning held at Penn Center near Pat’s gravesite on St. Helena Island. National Book Award-winning poet Nikky Finney, two-time Lillian Smith Book Award winning novelist Anthony Grooms, author and master naturalist J. Drew Lanham, and Conroy family members Tim Conroy and Cassandra King Conroy spoke to a full house of visitors from 11 states at Penn Center’s Frissell Community House.
In 2019, March Forth’s audience will expand by a factor of ten! In partnership with the Beaufort County School District, all 1,300 students at Beaufort High School are reading and discussing the New York Times best-selling young adult novel Dear Martin by Nic Stone, who will serve as keynote speaker at next year’s March Forth and address an all-school assembly at BHS about the social justice themes of her popular debut novel. A full lineup of presenters and programs for the 2019 March Forth will be announced in January.
Camp Conroy & Children’s Book Fair
This summer, our inaugural Camp Conroy gave a group of young writers and artists the welcome chance to write, illustrate, edit and produce their own lowcountry-themed book in just two weeks—under the expert guidance of our incredible instructors Lisa Anne Cullen, Miho Kinnas and Maura Connelly, and in partnership with the Technical College of the Lowcountry. The second annual Camp Conroy will move to a larger venue at Beaufort Middle School (which was Beaufort High School during Pat Conroy’s years there as student and teacher) and be open to an even larger group of participants in summer 2019. Look for registration details early in the new year.
A Children’s Book Fair was held in October in partnership with the Santa Elena History Center, featuring a full day of educational workshops, interactive activities, and author readings and book signings highlighted by appearances from children’s book authors and artists Melissa Conroy, Poppy’s Pants and Lisa Anne Cullen, Little Orange Honey Hood and an impressive array of fellow lowcountry children’s authors. Look for this exciting family-friendly program to continue in 2019 as well.
Lowcountry Book Club Convention
Also in October, the Conroy Center held our second annual Lowcountry Book Club Convention in partnership with the Technical College of the Lowcountry, Beaufort Bookstore, and South Carolina Humanities, with additional support from the Pulpwood Queens Book Club. Keynoted by a lively conversation between authors and librarians James E. McTeer II, Minnow and Annie Spence, Dear Fahrenheit 451, the day of literary learning was enjoyed by some 100 book club members from across Beaufort County. Look for a third annual Lowcountry Book Club Convention to be announced by summer 2019. AND, in the meantime, look for details on a yearlong Pat Conroy Literary Center Book Club to launch in March 2019, held at the new and expanded Conroy Center where we will explore all twelve of Pat’s published books in order of publication, one per month, with our special guest discussion leaders.
Pat Conroy Literary Festival
Our third annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival, held the first weekend in November and in partnership with the USCB Center for the Arts, once again drew hundreds of literary pilgrims from around the country to gather in beautiful Beaufort in memory and celebration of Pat Conroy. This year’s festival included appearances by Pulitzer Prize winners Rick Bragg and Kathleen Parker; best-selling novelists Patti Callahan Henry, Sandra Brown and Cassandra King Conroy; Pat’s Daufuskie Island student turned chef and tour guide Sallie Ann Robinson, and the Tony Award-winning Red Clay Ramblers. How can the fourth annual “ConroyFest” top that in 2019? Join us next November—and look for the schedule announcement next summer at—to find out.
And those are just a few wonderful memories from a year filled with growth and glimpses into a new year filled with promise from the Pat Conroy Literary Center. We invite you to visit us in person at 905 Port Republic Street or online at to learn even more.
Great Love, Great Thanks, and Happy New Year!
Story published in Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine and written by Jonathan Haupt, Conroy Center Executive Director