CHARLESTON, S.C. – The first woman to try to enter the Corps of Cadets at The Citadel says she left the military school quickly because of the way "outside forces" treated her.
The Post and Courier of Charleston reports Shannon Faulkner spoke Saturday at the school, marking her first invited appearance since she left in 1995. Faulkner, now an English teacher in Greenville, spoke at a symposium on the legacy of the late South Carolina novelist Pat Conroy, alongside Conroy's widow, writer Cassandra King. As one of his last requests, Conroy, a friend and mentor of Faulkner, wanted her to "make peace" with The Citadel.
"I enjoyed being a member of The Citadel family. I do consider myself a Citadel alumni," Faulkner said Saturday. "This is my school as much as anybody else's. I won't talk badly about the school and what it represents because I believe in it."
After a lawsuit, Faulkner started taking classes at The Citadel in January 1994 and became a member of the Corps about 18 months later. She withdrew six days later and left in tears while some cadets cheered.
Before she left, her childhood home was vandalized. She received threatening and disparaging mail. She said a vandal wrote "Die Shannon" on The Citadel water tower.
Faulkner said a man in Greenville grabbed her and "basically told me that if I showed up (at The Citadel), my parents would die." The same man later showed up in Charleston, she said.
"At one point in time, I thought I was going to die. I thought I was going to be the one that was going to be taken out, and I was willing to make that sacrifice," she said. "But when it came to my friends and my family, they should not pay for my choices and that's what I had to decide."
At the end of Faulkner's panel Saturday, a dozen audience members lined up to take photos with Faulkner and shake her hand, including 21-year-old Sumerlyn Carruthers, a junior at The Citadel from Fort Mill.
Faulkner hugged her. With tears in her eyes, Carruthers said, "Thank you so much."
"Without her, I wouldn't be here today," Carruthers said.
Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com