Archive for March, 2012

An Interview w/Pat Conroy

March 30, 2012

from the Palm Beach Post

Has success ruined Pat Conroy?

By Scott Eyman   |  Arts and Culture, Books  |  March 29, 2012

Author Pat Conroy will be at the Love of Literacy Lunch at the Kravis Center on Friday. (Photo provided)

Pat Conroy’s nine novels have earned him millions of devoted readers. He arouses a passionate devotion because of his combination of lyricism and emotional honesty.

The son of a military man, Conroy was expected to follow suit. He became a writer instead and has explored themes of dysfunctional families and Southern life in bestselling books such as The Great Santini, The Water is Wide, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music.

He will be speaking at the Love of Literacy Lunch at the Kravis Center on Friday, kicking off this year’s Read Together Palm Beach County event. The lunch is sold out, but Conroy spoke to The Palm Beach Post from his home in Beaufort, S.C.

A sense of place is paramount in your work, yet you had a peripatetic childhood where you were never in one place for very long. When did you first feel at home in a place?

I can answer that right now. Beaufort, S.C., where I am now sitting. When my father was dying, he pulled out a book and said, “Do you want to see all the places you lived?” When I was 15, we drove across the bridge and came to Beaufort and that was my 23rd move since I was born.

Beaufort was my third straight high school. I complained to my mother that I didn’t get to go to the house of a single boy. I’d never danced with a girl, never held a girl’s hand. I went to an all-boy’s school.

And she said, “Make Beaufort your home. America needs a fighter pilot in Beaufort.”

So I just honed in on this little town. They didn’t ask for me, they got me. And I’ve attached myself to this town in my work.

Does a novel begin for you with an image, a character, or something more concrete?

It’s to answer a question. With The Great Santini, the question was, why did my father beat up his family? With Prince of Tides it was, why is my sister crazy? It’s usually something that simple, and that carries me on. I ask myself a question, and it gets complicated thinking about it, and you arrange characters around that.

Success ‘ruins everything’

Does success change everything?

Yes, it does. It ruins everything. I got to know this too late, but it has damaged me, my brothers and sisters, my children. My oldest daughter, Jessica, was in third grade, when she introduced me to a friend, Suzy. “I’d like to introduce you to Pat Conroy,” she said. And I had to tell her, “Daddy. You’re introducing daddy.”

America seems to want success so much, and all it does is complicate things. These stupid reality TV shows. The less I get of that the better I am. The more I can avoid that, the more I can write, and the more I can ignore it.

Have you found writing gets harder or easier as you’ve gotten older?

It’s probably gotten harder. But it’s something I enjoy so much. I still write by hand. Three revolutions have passed me by with blinding speed. I tried taking a typing course in high school, and my father ripped me out of it and put me in physics. “Girls type, son. Corporals type.” At the Citadel, you could take courses in bazookas and flame-throwers, but there were no courses in typing. But now I’m used to writing by hand, and I still like it.

I found a couple of quotes of yours I’d like to ask you about: “The choices I didn’t make are almost as ruinous as the ones I did.”

That sounds like me. I have no idea where I wrote that, but it sure has a Conroy ring to it. Here’s what I’ve found: I have found life much harder than I thought it was going to be. I’m constantly amazed by how difficult the passage is. You don’t know where it’s going to get you; you make decisions and you can’t know if they’re good or horrible. Because I’m an emotional man, I make decisions based on emotion, and I screwed my life up. Do not talk to me about women. My second marriage was the worst since Adam and Eve. I walked into it with open eyes, and it nearly ruined my whole life.

Then there’s this one: “None of it has given me pleasure. I sit in gloom and darkness.”

That’s me joking. Cassandra (King, Conroy’s third wife and an author herself) will drive me crazy. I’m sitting with pen and ink, scratching out sentences. I pass by her room and I hear something that sounds like a machine gun going off. She’s tapping the computer keys so fast and with such amazing concentration that it bewilders me. And I think, no wonder she can do a book 10 times faster than I can. She’s developed a tool. And because my father had an IQ of 89, I did not learn to type.

When we got married, Cassandra bought me one of those typing courses. Finally I said this is the most boring s— I’ve ever done in my life. And they grade you, so you feel bad all day because you misspelled 15 or 20 words. Even the machine knows I’m an idiot.

Eventually I just quit. When you’re young you can do that, but I’m too old now.

Owns 8,000 books

Well, if writing is hard work, and life is a terrible struggle, what does give you pleasure?

Reading. I love reading as much as anyone I’ve ever met. I read constantly, all the time. Books. I own 8,000 of them. I look for things I haven’t read, and now I look for things to re-read. It fills the tank better than anything for me.

You’ve often mingled autobiography with your fiction; has that hurt you with critics in any way, made them take you less seriously as a novelist?

Oh, yeah. And being Southern has hurt me as much as anything. I’ve always liked to be called a Southern writer, even though it irritates critics in New York. I think the autobiography bothers them, but that’s all right. I do not read the critics. When I read the first reviews of The Water Is Wide, it hurt so bad I asked myself, what do I get out of this?

Here’s what my father used to do to me. I’ve gotten bad reviews from The New York Times all my life. My father would memorize the Times review, I would walk into a party in Atlanta and he would begin reciting the review word for word. I always knew what the Times was saying because Dad would tell me.

It’s a wonder you can still walk upright.

Actually, I don’t walk all that well. It’s all strange beyond belief. My father died thinking he was the reason Robert Duvall’s acting career took off. I swear to God. “It was the first role he ever played that had meat on it,” he said. And I’d point out Apocalypse Now and True Grit and all the rest, but to my father, it was because he’d played Santini.

Writers need readers

Your books are passionately loved like very few books are. I’ve always felt writers write mainly for themselves, but does having such a large and loyal audience ever make you second-guess yourself?

It’s been the luckiest thing in my life. I can’t figure out why it is so, but it is so. It is something I treasure more than anything. What writers need more than anything is readers. They need readers to buy into what the writer is doing. I meet people and I cannot believe how nice they are. They want to tell me stories about their families.

When Prince of Tides came out, this very handsome man and woman came up and introduced themselves. They were president of a fraternity and a sorority at the University of Georgia. They had a very combed-out look, like palominos.

“I read your book,” the man said. “Your family’s crazy.”

“Yes they are. How about yours, pal?”

“Oh, my family’s great.”

“Let’s tell the truth. How far do I have to go until I hit crazy? Mom? Dad? Uncle? Aunt? Sister?”

And his wife could not stand it. “His mother’s nuts!” she said.

By accident I hit upon something in my writing that people can readily identify with – the terrible things that go on in families.

Right now I’m writing The Death of Santini. I want to write about my father’s extraordinary change. When I wrote the novel, he hated it, and then he changed himself. And when he died, he was a good guy. He turned himself into a good man, and that amazes me. When I was growing up, I hated his guts. I hated him when I was in diapers.

And what I found in writing the book is that I have to go back to the beginning and tell the true stories about how horrible he was. Beating up my poor mother, beating me to a pulp. Great damage ensued.

And the next part is quite amazing. He died a beloved man, and I have to tell that.

When I first wrote the novel, my editor did not believe someone could be so irredeemably bad. She made me put in nice things. I went to my brother.

“Did Dad do anything nice for us?”


“Did he ever take you out for ice cream?”

“F—-, no.”

So I had to make up nice things. In the novel, he gave us a flight jacket, takes us out for our first drink, sends roses to his daughter’s prom. He never did anything like that. And this editor from Boston could not bear the thought that such a man could have existed.

The new book is going to be nonfiction, and I’ll tell the story as it happens. And writing it makes me realize all over again that my family is nuts. Why did I have to be born into this? Why would a loving God put a boy into this environment?

That’s the question I’m still trying to answer.


News from the Slippery Rock POV

March 29, 2012

Raleigh Jackson hired as linebackers coach

Jackson joins the SRU staff after serving two seasons as tight ends coach at his alma mater, The Citadel, and three seasons as defensive line coach at Missouri Southern State
3/20/2012 3:00:00 PM
Raleigh Jackson headshot


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Raleigh Jackson, a former restricted earnings assistant coach at The Citadel, has been hired as linebackers coach at Slippery Rock University, Rock Head Football Coach George Mihalik announced Monday.

Jackson joined The Rock staff after serving two seasons as tight ends coach for the Tigers, members of the NCAA Division I Southern Conference.

Prior to returning to his alma mater, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 2007, Jackson served three seasons as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Division II Missouri Southern State University.

In 2010, Jackson helped direct Missouri Southern to the Midwest Intercollegiate Athletic Association lead in rushing defense and total defense. He tutored two All-America performers and five All-MIAA performers while at Missouri Southern.

A four-year letterman as a linebacker at The Citadel, Jackson appeared in 42 of a possible 44 games and made 17 starts during his career. He was a starter his senior season and helped lead the Bulldogs to their first winning record in the Southern Conference in 15 seasons.

Jackson got his coaching start as an assistant working with the defensive ends and special teams at Goose Creek (S.C.) High School under former Baylor head coach Chuck Reedy.

A native of Orangeburg, S.C., and graduate of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, Jackson fills the coaching vacancy created by the resignation of Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay.

Raleigh Jackson Accepts Coaching Position at Slippery Rock

March 29, 2012

Raleigh Jackson has left The Citadel football coaching staff for a fulltime position as linebackers coach at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.

Jackson served as tight ends coach for the Bulldogs in a restricted earnings position the past two seasons. Nathaniel Hogge, who coached wide receivers last season, will once again coach the tight ends after holding that position his first three years at The Citadel. 

Jackson was a four-year letterman at linebacker for the Bulldogs and graduated from The Citadel in 2007. Prior to returning to his alma mater he spent three seasons as the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Missouri Southern State. Jackson began his coaching career as an assistant at Goose Creek High School under former Baylor coach Chuck Reedy.

He appeared in 42 of a possible 44 games with 17 starts during his playing days at The Citadel. He earned a starting spot his senior year and helped lead the Bulldogs to their first winning record in the Southern Conference in 15 years.

#10 USC Beats Bulldogs in “The Joe”

March 28, 2012

Charleston, S.C. – No. 10 South Carolina jumped out to a 3-1 lead and used four unearned runs in the fifth inning to pull away for a 7-3 victory over The Citadel in non-conference action Tuesday evening at Riley Park. The Bulldogs fall to 9-15 overall and return to Southern Conference action this weekend as they host Wofford beginning Friday at 6 p.m.

The Gamecocks (18-7) opened a 1-0 lead in the first inning and never trailed the rest of the way. Evan Marzilli led off the game with a bunt for a base hit and scored on Joey Pankake’s double into the gap in right-center.

South Carolina’s lead increased to 3-0 in the third inning. Tanner English reached with one out on an infield single and a hit and run with Marzilli put runners on the corners. Pankake’s infield single plated English and Brison Celek’s two-out RBI double down the left-field line scored Marzilli.

The Bulldogs scored a single run in the bottom of the fourth to break onto the scoreboard. Gamecock starter Jordan Montgomery had retired the first nine batters until Nick Orvin led off the frame with a base hit. With one out, Justin Mackert laced a RBI double over the head of English in left, plating Orvin and cutting Carolina’s lead to 3-1.

South Carolina’s lead extended to 7-1 in the top of the fifth inning. English led off the frame with a walk. With one out and English on second, the Gamecocks would again put runners on the corners as Pankake reached first base on a throwing error by third baseman Zach Sherrill. Christian Walker drove in English with a RBI single to left for a 4-1 lead. With the bases loaded and one out, LB Dantzler lined a RBI groundout to third. Erik Payne’s second triple of the season was knocked to the gap in left-center and scored both Walker and Celek giving the Gamecocks the six-run cushion.

Tyler Griffin made it 7-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning with a pinch-hit solo homer, his third round-tripper of the season for the Bulldogs. The Citadel added one more run in the ninth inning as Joe Jackson led off with a single and scored on Bo Thompson‘s RBI double into right.

Montgomery picked up his first win of the season for the Gamecocks, scattering three hits and allowing one run in 5-2/3 innings with four strikeouts.

Citadel starter Brett Tompkins suffered his first loss, falling to 0-1 on the season. The freshman gave up three runs on six hits in three innings with one strikeout. Orvin’s two hits led the Bulldogs.

Bulldog Challenge breaks records while raising scholarship money

March 27, 2012

Over $29K raised for Scholarships at The Citadel

More than 700 people paid for the chance to run until their legs felt like rubber and slog through the smelly Lowcountry pluff mud all while raising money to support scholarships for future Marine and Navy officers at The Citadel.  The Citadel’s 16th annual Bulldog Challenge on March 3 raised $29,490 for the Semper Fidelis Society Scholarship Fund.

Sponsored by the student Semper Fi Society chapter, The Citadel’s Bulldog Challenge tests the physical limits of even the fittest and fiercest endurance competitors. Participants come from across the Southeast to run the six-mile endurance and obstacle course, which includes challenges with intimidating names like “House of Pain” and “Guadalcanal,” stretches through The Citadel campus, parts of the City of Charleston, and even the gelatinous Lowcountry marsh.

This year’s race also set a record for participants. With 181 teams of four people each, the 724 participants topped the 680 who took part in 2011.    Participation has steadily increased over the years making the Bulldog Challenge one of the Lowcountry’s premier events for fitness, running and endurance enthusiasts. By comparison just 284 people participated in 2008.

For complete race results click here.

Citadel Employee Missing

March 22, 2012

Sheriff’s deputies seek help with missing woman case

Staff report
Monday, March 19, 2012

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a missing woman.

At about 5:45 p.m. March 18, deputies responded to 2829 Limestone Drive regarding Marjorie Gayle McCaffrey, 36. Robert McCaffrey reported that his wife is missing and that she was last seen at their residence on March 17, around 10 p.m. He said he left on a trip to Easley, and when returning about 06:30 a.m. March 18, Marjorie was not there.

A check of the residence and immediate area turned up no signs of Marjorie McCaffery, and her vehicle was located at the residence. The couple’s two children, aged 4 and 10, were at the residence. The children have been taken into protective custody as detectives investigate the incident.

McCaffrey is described as white, five feet, 2 inches, 155 pounds with with reddish/brown hair and blue eyes. Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Marjorie McCaffrey is asked to contact the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office at 843-202-1700

from the Charleston Post & Courier

Orces Earns Fifth Straight Singles Win in a 6-1 Loss to Samford

March 22, 2012

Cadet Orces seems to be the one bright spot on this year’s tennis team.


Charleston, S.C.  – David Orces claimed the lone point for the Bulldogs in a 6-1 loss to Samford in a Southern Conference tennis match on Wednesday. The Citadel dropped to 4-11 on the season and 0-5 in the SoCon while Samford improved to 11-2 overall and 5-0 in Southern Conference play.

In a conference match that took four hours, Orces was the bright light for The Citadel. The junior earned his eighth victory on the season by defeating Zac Dunkle, the SoCon Player of the Week for Feb. 14 and March 20. Orces took the first set 7-6, but Dunkle came from behind to take the second set 7-5. In an exhilarating singles match that almost hit the three-hour mark, Orces ultimately seized the tie-break set 10-8.  The Bulldog junior has had a hot racquet, having earned his fifth consecutive win in the No. 1 singles position and improving his record to 8-4 overall and 3-2 in the SoCon.

In doubles, the tandem of Orces and James Atkinson paired up for the second time this season in the No. 1 position. The duo took the early lead and led most of the set, but let it slip away as the Samford pair of Dunkle and Alexander Sajonz took the set 8-6.

The Dogs will look for their first home win this season against Chicago on Friday at 1 p.m., at the Earle Tennis Center and again on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Chattanooga.

Dog’s Bounce back – Beat Charleston Southern

March 20, 2012

Four-Run Seventh Propels Bulldogs to 4-0 Shutout of Charleston Southern

Final 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Charleston Southern (7-15) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
The Citadel (9-11) 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 X 4 8 1
@ Charleston, S.C. | Joseph P. Riley Park
Win: TJ Clarkson (1-1) – The Citadel
Loss: BURAN, Kevin (0-3) – Charleston Southern
Charleston Southern Batting
2B: none
3B: none
HR: none
The Citadel Batting
2B: none
3B: Mason Davis
HR: none

full stats

Charleston, S.C. – Four Bulldog pitcher combined on a three-hit shutout andMason Davis had a two-run triple in a four-run seventh inning as The Citadel blanked visiting Charleston Southern 4-0 Tuesday evening  at Riley Park. The Bulldogs improve to 9-11 overall and travel to face Big 10 foe Minnesota for a three-game series this weekend.

After the two teams kept each other scoreless through six frames, the Bulldogs exploded for four runs in the seventh to earn the victory. Bo Thompson led off the inning with a single through the right side and Hayden Hendry pinch ran for the Bulldogs’ designated hitter. Drew DeKerlegand dropped a sacrifice bunt to move Hendry to second and a walk by Calvin Orth put a pair of runners on and sent Buccaneer starter Kevin Buran to the bench. Ryne Hardwick grounded out to third, advancing the runners to second and third for Hughston Armstrong.

Armstrong connected on a 3-1 pitch from Zach Hagaman for a RBI single into right field to score Hendry for the 1-0 lead and moved to second on the throw to the plate. Davis drove a 0-1 pitch from Hagaman that painted the right-field line, racing around the bases for a two-run triple and putting the home side up 3-0. Davis would later score on a wild pitch by Hagaman for the 4-0 Bulldog lead.

TJ Clarkson picked up the win in relief for the Bulldogs, tossing two innings of no-hit ball with two walks and one strikeout. Brett Tompkins started the game for The Citadel, going the first four innings and allowing just one walk. Davis and Justin Mackert each had a pair of hits.

Buran suffered the loss for Charleston Southern, allowing two runs on five hits in 6-1/3 innings with two walks and two strikeouts. Hagaman gave up a pair of runs on two hits in two-thirds of an inning of work.

For more information on Bulldog baseball, follow us on Twitter at @CitadelBaseball or visit

Palmetto Medals awarded to three for service to S.C., The Citadel

March 20, 2012

A renowned English professor, a selfless battalion commander and a beloved mentor to generations of cadets are this year’s recipients of The Citadel Palmetto Medal for 2012.



Havey Dick


The Palmetto Medal award was created by the college’s Board of Visitors to recognize cadets, faculty, staff or alumni for exceptional performance that reflects great credit on the college or the state of South Carolina. The Palmetto Medal is the second highest honor bestowed by the college. The first is an honorary degree. 

This year’s recipients are the late Col. Harvey Dick, English professor Jim Rembert and Cadet Lt. Col. Andrew Rowell. They will be recognized during the Corps Day Weekend military dress parade at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 17. The South Carolina Corps of Cadets is celebrating its 169th birthday this year.

Dick is believed to be the first person to receive a Palmetto Medal posthumously. A longtime fixture in The Citadel community, Dick was a former assistant commandant of cadets in charge of discipline and a long-time member of The Citadel Board of Visitors before he died in February at the age of 84 after a battle with cancer.



James Rembert


A 1953 Citadel graduate, Dick served in World War II and did two tours in Germany and Vietnam. After his retirement from the Army, he was appointed the assistant commandant of cadets. Responsible for operations and discipline, he took a genuine interest in the lives and leadership development of cadets for 16 years. Following his retirement from The Citadel, Dick was elected to the college’s Board of Visitors as an alumni representative. He served a pair of six-year terms, from 1993-1999 and from 2001 to 2007. 

For nearly 40 years, Rembert has shown exceptional devotion and service to the college as a professor of English. A 1961 Citadel graduate, Rembert served on active duty in the Army as both an Airborne and Ranger Qualified Infantry Officer from 1963 to 1965. For 37 years, beginning in 1968, Rembert taught in the English Department. He retired from The Citadel but returned in 2011 to teach a course on Literature of War. 



Andrew Rowell

Rembert has worked tirelessly to ensure that the work of our military service men and women is not forgotten. He served as a consultant during the construction of The Medal of Honor Museum aboard the USS Yorktown in Charleston Harbor. As a consultant for the American Battle Monuments Commission, he was instrumental in planning a $20 million interpretive center at the Normandy American Cemetery in France. Since 2001, he has been the associate and chief military affairs editor of The Charleston Mercury newspaper. There he reports on the combat experiences of local veterans.  

For Cadet Lt. Col Andrew Rowell of Simpsonville, S.C., the needs of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets have always preceded his own.

Rowell began his Citadel career with Alpha Company, where he rose to the position of regimental operations NCO. However, when situations arose that left Delta Company with little to no NCOs, Rowell voluntarily transferred to help develop the leadership that it needed. Once there, he worked relentlessly in the absence of personal notoriety to build confidence and skill through mentoring and leading by example.

Rowell’s efforts did not go unnoticed throughout the Corps. In his senior year, he was the unanimous choice for 1st Battalion Commander. Since, he has been instrumental in improving the battalion’s academic and physical standings. Central to this progress has been Rowell’s emphasis on personal accountability as well as moral and ethical behavior.

Achieving excellence in the education of principled leaders

Brotherly love: The gift of life

March 19, 2012
 Jeff Ragan
Jeff Ragan
Sunday, March 18, 2012

At a fat-free 5-4-1/2 and 138 pounds, Jeff Ragan is one of those bundle-of-energy guys who prides himself on staying in shape and never missing a day of work.   Ragan, 35 years old and associate head coach of The Citadel’s wrestling team, still loves to get on the mat and beat on his wrestlers. An All-American at Oklahoma State, Ragan also teaches a full course load as an adjunct math professor at The Citadel, runs the school’s math lab, operates The Citadel’s summer wrestling camp and helps coach youth and high school wrestlers around the Lowcountry and the nation.  And in his spare time, Ragan is a husband and father of two.

“The guy just works his tail off,” said Citadel wrestler Odie Delaney. “Nothing slows him down.”   So on that October afternoon two years ago, when Ragan felt so bad that he had to leave early from a Bulldogs practice, he knew something was up.   “I taught class that morning, and I had a hard time seeing my students,” Ragan recalls. “I left practice early for the first time in 10 years. On the way home, I had to turn on the brights in my car, even though it was 4 in the afternoon. I couldn’t see the dashboard of the car.”   Ragan had not felt well for a while, but doctors thought it was bronchitis or an acute cough. This time, with a blood pressure of 280/240, they thought he might be having a stroke. After testing, though, the answer came back — both of Jeff’s kidneys were failing, and he would need a life-saving transplant.

“It was a shock,” Ragan said. “But I never got angry or frustrated. I just said, ‘this is what I’ve got to do.’ ”

Brothers in arms

Funny thing. That’s the exact reaction that Brad Ragan, deployed in Afghanistan at the time, had when he heard the news about his older brother.   “I felt like I knew what the solution was from the beginning,” said Brad, 29, a former Citadel wrestler and a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. “It was only natural that I be there to help him.”

So on April 4 at the Medical University Hospital, the Ragan brothers — who used to wrestle each other on the mat in their garage — will be together again. Doctors will remove a kidney from Brad and put it in Jeff’s body in a supreme act of brotherly love.  “I guess all those days beating him up on the wrestling mat were good,” Jeff said. “My dad was my wrestling coach, and I coached my brother here at The Citadel. We helped each other, trained each other, and it creates a close bond as a family.”

Jeff Ragan might have had to wait two or three years on the transplant list for a kidney to become available. But through the National Kidney Foundation’s Living Donor program, his brother was tested and found to be a perfect match.   And if Brad had not matched, there were other friends and family and an entire squad of Citadel wrestlers ready to step in.

“He means everything to us, and we talk about that often as a team,” said Delaney, one of three Bulldogs to win Southern Conference titles and a trip to the NCAA championships this season. “The health problems he’s had going on, they would have put most people out completely. But he gets up at 4:30 a.m. to get his dialysis done so he can be in the wrestling room with us. He’s in there training hard, wrestling with us when I know he’s not supposed to.   “It really shows how much he loves us and how much he loves the sport.”

Making a difference

Jeff Ragan’s impact goes far beyond The Citadel wrestling team. Through his summer camps and The Citadel Old Timers Club, the Bulldogs’ youth wrestling organization, he’s been instrumental in the careers of standouts like Jordan Wigger and Aaron Hansen, each a four-time state champion from Summerville High School.  “Jordan’s reached the point where he competes on a national level and has become an All-American,” said Jerry Wigger, Jordan’s father. “He would not have gotten there without Jeff Ragan.”

Ragan knows how to explain complex wrestling moves in terms kids can understand. A technique called “running the pipe” turns into “bear pooping in the woods,” a visual kids can picture immediately. Where other coaches might yell “Arch your back” to a wrestler trying to avoid a pin, Ragan goes with “Smile for the camera!” to get the same effect.

“Jeff is better at relating to kids than anyone I’ve ever seen in coaching,” Jerry Wigger said. “He can see the next couple of things they need to learn to get better, and can show them that.”   Ragan is in demand across the country to coach at summer camps, and Citadel head coach Rob Hjerling calls him “one of the best technicians in the country.” Ragan, who was Oklahoma State’s male athlete of the year in 2000, has had chances to go back to his alma mater or move on to powers such as Penn State. But he thinks he can have a bigger impact at a school like The Citadel.

“When I was at Oklahoma State, I was part of a program that had everything,” he said. “All the resources, facilities, every luxury you could want. But I didn’t want to go back to a big school that had everything. I want to be at a place where I feel I can make a difference, and that’s why I came to The Citadel in the first place. To see a kid come in with a 2.2 GPA and graduate with a 3.5, to see a kid improve as a wrestler, that’s what matters to me.”

‘Whole again’

A lot of things had to come together for Jeff Ragan to make it this far. In November 2010, after he had been out of the hospital for a week, his two young children found him passed out on the bathroom floor early on a Sunday morning.  They woke up mom, who rushed Jeff to the emergency room. During his previous stay, Ragan had thrown up several times and torn his esophagus. He was bleeding internally and had lost eight pints of blood.   “All I remember is I fell asleep watching the Alabama-Auburn game,” he said. “The doctors said if my kids had not found me, I probably wouldn’t be here. I’m just grateful they got up early and decided not to watch cartoons that day.”

Then there was the matter of timing the transplant with Brad, who flies the KC-135 refueling tanker and the MC-12 surveillance airplane for the Air Force. To do the transplant, Brad would have to give up flying for two or three years, impossible while he was on standby to be deployed anywhere around the world.   But as fortune and the Air Force would have it, Brad Ragan was selected for a job at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, where he will be a flight-simulator instructor for three years. That will allow him to keep working for the Air Force until he is cleared to fly again.

“I needed a job in the Air Force that would release me from worldwide flying status, and that’s what happened,” Brad said. “The way things worked out, it’s just perfect, like it was somebody’s plan.  “I’m just so happy I can do this for him,” Brad said. “The biggest thing I feel is a large sense of family, that by doing this we can be whole again.”  Through the whole process, Jeff Ragan said, he’s remembered Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good for those who love God.”   “I am so grateful how everything has worked out,” he said. “I never stopped to feel sorry for myself, but rather saw this as another challenge that I can overcome.”

At The Citadel: Associate head wrestling coach; adjunct math professor.
College career: Big 12 champ and NCAA All-America at Oklahoma State.
Age: 35. Family: Wife, Andrea. Daughter, Allie. Son, Jacob.

The Citadel Old Timers Club is helping raise money for Citadel associate head wrestling coach Jeff Ragan. To donate, make checks payable to The Citadel Old Timers Club with Ragan’s name in the notation and mail to The Citadel Wrestling Office, 171 Moultrie St., Charleston SC 29409.