Introduction during 2000 for Lt. Colonel Thomas Nugent Courvoisie


Introduction for Lt. Colonel Thomas Nugent Courvoisie[1]©

Thirty years ago, in one of his first commercial literary endeavors, Pat Conroy wrote a book that epitomized his ambivalence for the Citadel but presaged his life-long love for its soul.  The book was about the man who to many of us best embodies the qualities that made Citadel men not only successful, but special in their humanity, humility and humor.

1970 was a difficult year.  The country was in the midst of a war fought both abroad, and more successfully at home.  And the Citadel had experienced its own coup de etat two years earlier.

To me and many other cadets during the turbulent sixties, Lt. Colonel Thomas Nugent Courvoisie, appeared to possess some of the attributes of the all mighty, especially omnipresence.  Many of us swore he was triplets with an uncanny ability to be in many places at once.  Unfortunately for many of us, always the wrong place.  More importantly in the long run, however, he had compassion, understanding and courage.

The Boo worked for the Citadel’s administration, and did a fine job.  But his place in heaven will be earned by the service he provided to those members of the Corps of Cadets who had no powerful parents or friends to protect them, to guide them and to teach them to become whole men.  He was as much our representative in the Citadel’s halls of power as he was the chief operating officer of the institution’s disciplinary system.

Today, as I try to teach my three sons to be the best people they can be, I try hard to emulate Colonel Courvoisie.  When his punishment decisions were issued, I knew they were fair and although I didn’t serve confinements joyfully, I didn’t resent them either.  More importantly, I learned to accept my mistakes and pay for them, not deny them, forget them, blame everyone else for them and fail to learn from them as so many of our leaders do today.   When we had problems that were too large for us, we had someone to go to, someone we could confide in, someone whom we could trust.

As his position as assistant commandant was being undermined in my senior year, his example taught us how to deal with adversity when we were right, when the power was with those who were wrong, and when justice seemed to be too abstract to capture in our day-to-day lives.

Today, almost forty years since he first became the Citadel’s lord of discipline, more than thirty years after he was exiled to the Citadel’s transportation and baggage warehouse, he is back with us.

Like Pat Conroy thirty years ago, my feelings about the Boo today are still almost too sentimental to analyze objectively.  I really don’t mind.  I am pleased that like Lazarus, he has risen again and is now an intermediary between a new administration at the Citadel and the graduates who, like him, love it and who believe that it is the best place in the world for a young man, and now a young woman, to learn honor, duty and truth and to become a leader, a teacher, a parent, a citizen.  A whole person.


[1] Copyright April 1, 2000, Guillermo Calvo Mahé, Ocala, Florida.