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From evoking the wrath of his family to inciting the ire of an entire military institution, Pat Conroy is no stranger to controversy. And the man behind the pen is no shrinking violet as I learned last week at a dinner party hosted in his honor by Teddy and Blair Turner. Conroy roved the living room with glad hand extended and quiver of wit at the ready. He made a point to meet every person in attendance, the bulk of whom serve as teachers and faculty of Charleston Collegiate School, a progressive, private school on Johns Island with an enrollment of 265 students.
It was fitting company for the tale of Conroy's abrupt departure from his teaching post on Daufuskie Island in the 1970s, where his unconventional teaching practices led to his firing on the grounds of insubordination. He parlayed that experience into The Water is Wide, which has twice been adapted to film. And while his career path quickly veered from teacher to novelist, he clearly connects with the brethren of educators, whom he saluted for their spirited and often thankless dedication to bright, young minds.
Conroy's connection to the Turner family has spanned several decades, and thanks to Teddy's new career as a teacher at Charleston Collegiate, the friendship came full circle at last week's dinner.