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Citadel News Service
1 May 2006

Lt. Col. Thomas Nugent Courvoisie - The Boo - passes away

The Citadel family has lost one of its great icons.

Lt. Col. Thomas Nugent Courvoisie, known by most as "The Boo," died Sunday, April 30, 2006, at Cooper Hall Assisted Living Center, where he resided. He was 89.

"The Citadel has lost a wonderful alumnus and an icon with the death of Col. Courvoisie," said Citadel President John W. Rosa. "He loved The Citadel and had a devoted following of the many alumni whose lives he touched. People like Col. Courvoisie leave their mark on the college and make The Citadel a colorful and interesting place. I feel fortunate to have known him."

Courvoisie, who was born Oct. 19, 1916 in Savannah, Ga., began his college career at The Citadel in the summer of 1934, but after two years, his education was interrupted by military service during World War II. After the war, Courvoisie returned to The Citadel as a veteran and received his bachelor's degree in history in 1952 while stationed in Georgetown, S.C., as an active duty instructor with the South Carolina National Guard.

In 1959, Courvoisie was assigned to his alma mater as an assistant professor of military science, a position he held for nearly three years. After his service in the military, where he served more than 20 years, Courvoisie was appointed assistant commandant in charge of disciplinary action at The Citadel.

Photo
Courvoisie stands at one of the campus gates in this 1964 picture from The Sphinx yearbook.

During his tenure as assistant commandant from 1961 until 1968, Courvoisie touched the lives of many cadets who entered Lesesne Gate, which earned him his famous nickname, "The Boo." The nickname is said to have originated when an entering cadet said the colonel acted "like a trapped caribou." Gradually it was shortened to "The Boo."

After his respected reign in the commandant's office, Courvoisie went on to serve The Citadel as manager of the central supply warehouse until his retirement in 1982. In this capacity, he continued to maintain contact with the Corps of Cadets, whom he affectionately referred to as "his lambs."

Throughout the years, The Boo remained a living legend at The Citadel often receiving countless letters, cards, photos, and other memorabilia from past cadets.

In 1962, Courvioisie was presented a bronze shoe that was worn by a cadet who walked countless marching tours in the quadrangle of the barracks. To this day, his renowned and fiery prophecy resounds through the halls of The Citadel and in the hearts of its graduates: "Whatever you did wrong at The Citadel, even if you had bad thoughts, I am going to be waiting for you as sergeant of Lesesne Gate in hades, and you're going to walk, Bubba."

Charlie Burnside, Class of 1965 and a North Carolina Citadel Alumni Association director, broke the news to alumni at an online bulletin board for Citadel grads.

"It is with a very sad heart that I have to tell you that we have lost The Boo. I have lost a friend of over 45 years, whom there is no replacement for. I know many of you have similar feelings toward him, there was only one like him, and those of us that were lucky enough to have him for a friend and mentor are better people for knowing and learning from him," Burnside said.

Photo
Courvoisie, left, with Conroy during a 2000 military dress parade. Both received honorary degrees from The Citadel.

Renowned author and Citadel graduate, Pat Conroy, Class of 1967, immortalized Courvoisie in his book, The Boo, a collection of humorous and sentimental reminiscences that took place during "The Boo's" often dreaded, always respected reign as assistant commandant in charge of discipline. "The Bear," in Conroy's novel Lords of Discipline was based on Courvoisie.

(Click here to read Conroy's eulogy.)

Maj. Steve Smith, Class of 1984, a tactical officer in 4th Battalion, remembers marching to the warehouse his knob year to be issued a phone for his room (knobs don't have telephones until second semester and they have to bring their own nowadays). Smith knew "The Bear" from Lords of Discipline and knew who he was going to meet.

"He was heard before we actually saw him as he asked in that deep throaty voice, ' MayI help you?' Smith said. "We actually found that he was not as gruff as the cadre made him out to be. Respected, yes, but not feared."

A classmate had a different experience, Smith recalls.

"The Boo: May I help you?

Photo
The Boo at a Citadel football game during his heydey.

Classmate: Yeah, old man, I need a phone.

The Boo: You don’t know who I am do you, Bubba?

Classmate: You’re the guy that works here.

The Boo: Why don’t you step into my office for a bit."

"I’m sure the Boo got a good laugh out of it," Smith said.

In October 2000, The Citadel presented Courvoisie with an honorary doctor of letters degree. It was the same year Conroy was given an honorary degree. They stood side by side at that day's military dress parade to accept their honors and to take review.

Then in September 2001, Courvoisie was honored at the dedication of Courvoisie Banquet Hall at the Holliday Alumni Center. Conroy spearheaded fundraising to renovate a portion of the former National Guard Armory into a banquet facility.

A letter from then President George W. Bush summed up what many alumni feel.
"You and I share a common respect for The Citadel and what it stands for. We both appreciate the characteristics of dedication, loyalty and honor that are essential to its graduates at The Citadel. Many who have come to The Citadel bring a sound moral foundation with then, and others develop it during their cadet years; but all of them have been blessed to have you as part of their lives while at the school."

Remembering The Boo

Visitation: 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, May 2 in Summerall Chapel.
Funeral: 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 3 in Summerall Chapel.
Burial: Beaufort National Cemetery, following the funeral.
Reception: Noon, Wednesday, May 3 in the Courvoisie Banquet Hall at the Holliday Alumni Center, 69 Hagood Ave.

Courvoisie's other honors include the Palmetto Medal in 1999, The Citadel Alumni Association's Distinguished Life Member award in November 2001 and Alumunus of the Year from The Citadel Alumni Association in 2005.

Courvoisie is survived by his wife; one daughter: Dr. Helen E. Courvoisie of Baltimore, Md.; one Son: Alfred Courvoisie and his wife Shohreh of Charleston; five grandchildren: Carol Lynn Courvoisie and Susan Payan and her husband Jose all of Charleston, Alexei Ray of Baltimore, Md., Thomas S. Courvoisie of Charleston, and Ayla B. Courvoisie of Charleston. And his many many Lambs.

Memorials may be made to The Courvoisie Scholarship Fund at The Citadel Brigadier Foundation. Contributions may also be sent to The Citadel Foundation in memory of Colonel Courvoisie. The mailing address in either case is 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, SC 29409.
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