Garthwait Resigns from Board of Trustees After Photo of Him in Nazi Uniform Found in Yearbook
By Benjamin Pontz & Gauri Mangala
Bob Garthwait ’82 has resigned from the Gettysburg College Board of Trustees after a photo of him wearing a Nazi uniform at what appears to be a fraternity party was found in the 1980 edition of Spectrum, the college yearbook. Garthwait, who has donated more than $1 million to the college over the years, most notably for the development of his namesake Garthwait Leadership Center (GLC), was a member of the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity as a student.
The photo was discovered last week by Cameron Sauers ’21, a history major, while he was conducting research in the college archives. He showed the photo to Hannah Labovitz ’21, a member of Gettysburg College Hillel, who identified Garthwait as the individual on the right of the photo with an armband that depicts a large swastika. Labovitz then presented the photo to Dr. Stephen Stern, Chair of the College’s Judaic Studies Program, last Thursday morning.
Upon learning of the photo, college officials reached out to Sauers and Labovitz to discuss the finding. The pair met with President Janet Morgan Riggs ’77 and Dean of Students Julie Ramsey Monday afternoon.
“We are very appreciative for their willingness to hear our concerns and listen to our frustrations,” Sauers said in a statement on behalf of himself and Labovitz. “However, we do not consider this matter settled. We do not think a swastika armband has ever been acceptable attire. Mr. Garthwait’s decision to resign from the Board of Trustees is an appropriate first step but larger strides to combat anti-Semitism at Gettysburg College are still needed. Hannah and I would like to hear from other students and welcome any and all opinions about this. Hannah and I will continue to be in contact with Dean Ramsey, President Riggs, and the Board of Trustees regarding this matter.”
In an email, Stern said he has called a meeting of the Judaic Studies program for later this week.
“My opinion is the College ought to return the money,” he added, referring to Garthwait’s donations to the college.
The Yearbook Photo
Garthwait said in a statement released this morning by Riggs in a campus-wide email that the photo depicted a “Hogan’s Heroes”-themed fraternity party his sophomore year of college.
“I understand how disturbing this image is to members of the Gettysburg College community, and especially those who are Jewish,” he said. “As a sophomore in 1980, I was not fully aware of the significance of those symbols. While this is no excuse, I am deeply embarrassed and regret participating in this event where Nazi symbols were used.”
Reached by phone, Marguerite Klein Mumford ’81, the editor of the 1980 edition of Spectrum, said that her job, as editor, was to document what happened at the college and that the only behavior that would be omitted from the yearbook was behavior that was illegal.
“It wasn’t my job to edit anything that happened at the college. It was my job to report what happened at the college,” she said.
She added that she does not remember the specific photo in question, but it would not surprise her if a fraternity had held a “Hogans Heroes”-themed party and if someone attending that party wore a Nazi uniform.
“It was a beloved, well-loved TV show,” she said.
For his part, Garthwait apologized and asked for the campus community’s forgiveness.
“My sincere hope is that our current students will learn from my poor judgement [sic] 38 years ago and be more thoughtful than I was about the impact of their actions on others,” he said. “I extend my sincere apologies to the entire Gettysburg College community, and I humbly ask for your forgiveness.”
Alpha Chi Rho
The current president of Alpha Chi Rho, Thomas Juelke ’20, called the photo “disturbing and offensive” and said it “in no way reflects our fraternity or its values.”
Notably, a member of Alpha Chi Rho was found responsible for hazing last spring through the college’s judicial processes when he tried to compel a new member to write an Anti-Semitic essay.
Asked whether the incidents in tandem reflect a systemic issue of Anti-Semitism in the fraternity, Juelke said that the chapter self-reported last spring’s hazing incident.
“Our fraternity was founded in the idea of respect for all individuals, regardless of race, creed or nationality,” he said. “We do not tolerate discriminatory behavior of any kind, and we self-reported this incident to uphold our commitment to this principle and holding all members accountable for their actions.”
Riggs said that Anti-Semitism is against the core values of the college today just as it was in 1980, when this photo was taken.
“My hope is that all of us in the College community will learn from this—that it will inspire compassion for one another and a rededication among all of us to creating a climate in which all feel welcome,” she said.
The Student Senate Opinions Committee met Tuesday afternoon and approved a draft opinion condemning Anti-Semitism and religious bigotry that the full Senate will consider next Monday.
Andy Hughes, Director of the Garthwait Leadership Center, said that the potential renaming of the GLC is out of his hands.
“As far as I understand that decision is up to the Board of Trustees,” he said. “I personally will want to learn more about the input and responses of students and alumni to help inform my thinking on the matter. I don’t want to leap to judgment on that matter.”
He added that this picture does not represent the Bob Garthwait he has come to know, but that it is inappropriate.
“I am deeply disappointed to see this photo, particularly since the image does not represent who I know Bob to be. This act is never appropriate, no matter the context,” he said. “Our organization believes deeply that respecting and engaging difference is imperative to effective leadership. For the past eight years, we have worked hard to challenge the myth that leadership is simply about power, prestige, or authority.”
Jamie Yates, the college’s spokesperson, said that the Board of Trustees would continue to deliberate on appropriate next steps but would not reach a decision in haste.
“The board needs time to absorb the news and to deliberate on next steps,” she said. “I hope the community will understand that a deliberative approach is far superior to an immediate reaction, and we believe it will be important for students , faculty and trustees to be heard on any further actions to be taken.”
Editor’s Note: This story was initially published Tuesday morning and was updated numerous times throughout the day. As of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, it is in its final form. Future updates will come in a new article. (-B. Pontz)
Nicole DeJacimo, Maddie Neiman, Lizzie Hobbs, Joshua Wagner, Mary Frasier, and Charlie Williamson contributed to this report.