- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 2, 2006

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Lt. Col. Thomas Nugent Courvoisie, the professor who inspired novelist Pat Conroy to become a writer, died April 30 at the Cooper Hall Assisted Living Center in Mount Pleasant, The Citadel announced Monday. His cause of death was not released. He was 89.

“The Citadel family has lost its patriarch,” Maj. Gen. John S. Grinalds, past president of the college, told the Charleston Post and Courier. “I don’t think there has been anybody else who has captured the spirit of The Citadel like the Boo.”

Col. Courvoisie graduated from The Citadel in 1952, after his education was disrupted for more than a decade for military service before and during World War II.

He returned to the military college in 1959 and became an assistant professor of military science. He then became the assistant commandant in charge of disciplinary action.

Serving from 1961 until 1968, Col. Courvoisie touched the lives of many students, including Mr. Conroy. He was nicknamed “the Boo,” which is said to have originated from a cadet who bragged that he had sneaked out and was chased by Col. Courvoisie, who looked like a giant, hulking caribou sloshing through the marsh.

“I didn’t do that,” Col. Courvoisie told the Post and Courier in 2001. “I ain’t going through the marsh for no cadet. I could catch him the next day.”

Mr. Conroy repaid Col. Courvoisie for his inspiration by immortalizing him in his first book, “The Boo,” published in 1970, three years after Mr. Conroy graduated. The book is a collection of humorous and sentimental reminiscences that took place during “the Boo’s” often dreaded, always respected reign.

Cadets said Col. Courvoisie would bail them out of jail, give some a place to stay, or in one case, pay for emergency surgery.

The Citadel honored both Col. Courvoisie and Mr. Conroy in 2000 when it presented them with honorary degrees.

“To stand by him will be one of the greatest moments in my life,” Mr. Conroy said before the ceremony. “He was the beginning of my literary career.”

In the late 1960s, the school moved Col. Courvoisie to the supply warehouse, a place where he had little or no contact with students, because they considered him bad for discipline.

But his reputation already was cemented, and a new generation of cadets kept coming to Col. Courvoisie, who affectionately referred to them as “his lambs.”

Col. Courvoisie retired from The Citadel in 1982.

Survivors include his wife, Helen Shanley; a daughter; a son; and five grandchildren.

A funeral service will be at 10:30 a.m. today in the college chapel, with burial in Beaufort National Cemetery.

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