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Member of Gettysburg College Board of Trustees resigns after 1980 photo surfaces of him wearing Nazi uniform

Photo from Gettysburg College 1980 Yearbook

GETTYSBURG — A member of Gettysburg College’s Board of Trustees resigned this week after a picture of him wearing a Nazi uniform that was included in the school’s 1980 yearbook was discovered by a current student.

Bob Garthwait, a 1982 Gettysburg grad, stepped down this week after the photo was found by Cameron Sauers, a history major who was conducting research in the college archives last week, according to a report in The Gettysburgian, the college’s student newspaper.

Garthwait, who the Gettysburgian reports has made substantial donations to the college over the years, was a member of the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity as a student at the college.

The photo depicts him standing at the far right of a group of five students in what appears to be a social setting. A swastika is clearly visible on the sleeve of the military uniform Garthwait is wearing in the photo.

Garthwait said in a statement that the photo was taken during a “Hogan’s Heroes”-themed fraternity party held when he was a sophomore.

“Hogan’s Heroes” was a comedy TV series that aired in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, depicting a group of POWs who constantly outsmarted their bumbling German captors.

The Gettysburgian reports that Sauers showed the photo to Hannah Labovitz, President 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, the Gettysburgian reports.

Sauers and Labovitz then met with Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs and Dean of Students Julie Ramsey on Monday to discuss their concerns, the Gettysburgian says.

Garthwait released a statement that was circulated via campus-wide email Tuesday morning.

“It recently came to my attention that there is a photograph in the 1980 yearbook taken during my sophomore year, in which I am dressed as a German soldier in a POW camp setting as part of a World War II-Stalag 13 (Hogan’s Heroes TV show)-themed floor at a fraternity party. I understand how disturbing this image is to members of the Gettysburg College community, and especially those who are Jewish.

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.  As an alumnus, it has been one of my great pleasures to be instrumental in the founding of the Garthwait Leadership Center, which focuses on the values of integrity, respect, and inclusiveness.

My sincere hope is that our current students will learn from my poor judgement 38 years ago and be more thoughtful than I was about the impact of their actions on others. I extend my sincere apologies to the entire Gettysburg College community, and I humbly ask for your forgiveness.”

Riggs said in a separate statement Tuesday that Garthwait decided to resign from the Board of Trustees.

“Bob has made the decision to step down from the Board of Trustees. Clearly he regrets that he participated in this event and the harm it has caused to our community about which he cares so deeply.

Conversations will continue with our Board about this situation.  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 re-dedication among all of us to creating a climate in which all feel welcome.”

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