MONTGOMERY – Renowned author Pat Conroy is being remembered today as not only a gifted story-teller, but also as an advocate for change.
Conroy, author of best-selling novels such as “The Great Santini,” “The Lords of Discipline” and “The Prince of Tides,” which was adapted for the screen for the 1991 Academy Award-nominated film by the same title, died on Friday at the age of 70. Conroy was honored by Troy University in 2015, with the University’s Hall-Waters Prize. The presentation was made last April during the Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery’s Old Alabama Town. Established by TROY alumnus Dr. Wade Hall, who passed away in September, the Hall-Waters Prize honors persons who have made significant contributions to Southern heritage and culture in history, literature or the arts.
“We’ve lost a great and powerful voice in Southern literature, whom we were honored to recognize with the Hall-Waters Prize last year,” said Walter Givhan, TROY’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development, who took part in last year’s award presentation to Conroy. “No one wrote with more passion and energy about the South and its people. We will miss him terribly.”
Dr. Kirk Curnutt, chair of TROY’s Department of English, said Conroy will be remembered for his story-telling abilities, both in person and on the page.
“In person, Pat could be playfully gruff, teasing and wry, which befitted a man who was both physically imposing and a hilarious storyteller,” Dr. Curnutt said. “On the page what always rang out, however, was the vulnerability and sensitivity, which is key to appreciating both his popularity and his influence.”
Dr. Curnutt said that while Conroy is typically thought of as a Southern author, his impact and influence extending far beyond the region.
“Much will be written in the wake of Pat Conroy’s passing about his generosity to fellow writers and his many fans, with whom he always shared his time as well as his entertaining stories,” Dr. Curnutt said. “It’s almost as important to remember, however, what his works represented, not just to Southern literature but to American literature in general.
“When ‘The Water is Wide’ and ‘The Great Santini’ first appeared in the 1970s, Pat was a leading voice advocating for a more introspective, sensitive masculinity, one that acknowledged men’s need for nurturing and affection, especially from their own fathers. The incredible family story that he comes back to in both his novels and his memoirs reflected a generational cry for more unconditional love and acceptance and less earning respect through endurance tests and punishment,” Dr. Curnett said. “He extended that critique to institutions in ‘The Lords of Discipline’ and then back to the family in ‘The Prince of Tides,’ where the ability to express one’s pain as a man, so often seen as a weakness in our culture, is instead shown to be the path to emotional healing and survival.”
Conroy's other works included "South of Broad," (2009), and nonfiction works such as "My Losing Season" (2002), "My Reading Life" (2010), and "The Death of Santini" (2013).