A member of the board of trustees at a Pennsylvania college resigned this week after a yearbook photo surfaced that shows him and others dressed as Nazis at a 1980 party.
Bob Garthwait, who graduated from Gettysburg College in 1982, has made significant donations to the school over the years, Harrisburg’s FOX 43 reported.
The photo shows Garthwait holding a plastic cup and wearing a military-style uniform, with a swastika band clearly visible on his left arm. He is standing along with four other students who are similarly dressed, though no swastikas are visible on their attire.
The photo was discovered last week by Cameron Sauers, a history major doing research in the college archives, the Gettysburgian, a student newspaper, reported. According to the Associated Press, fellow history major Hannah Labovitz determined Garthwait's identity.
Labovitz told the AP that Garthwait’s resignation from the board shows he understands “how serious the situation is.”
“It wasn’t just him — it was the school that allowed this to be in the yearbook and there were zero complaints when it was allowed to be published,” Labovitz said Tuesday.
In a statement, Garthwait said the photo was taken during a “Hogan’s Heroes”-themed fraternity party when he was a sophomore at the school, FOX 43 reported. The reference is to a TV comedy series from the 1960s and 1970s that depicted crafty Allied prisoners of war outwitting bungling Nazi soldiers.
“I understand how disturbing this image is to members of the Gettysburg College community, and especially those who are Jewish,” Garthwait wrote in his statement.
“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 [sic] 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.”
Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs issued a separate statement:
“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,” Riggs wrote.
“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.”
Gettysburg College is a private, four-year liberal arts college of about 2,400 students, located near the Gettysburg Battlefield.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.