An alumnus and member of Gettysburg College’s board of trustees resigned this week after a photo from the school’s 1980 college yearbook surfaced showing him wearing a Nazi uniform, the school announced.
The trustee, Bob Garthwait Jr., a prominent donor and third-generation business owner from Connecticut, said in a statement that the photo was taken when he was dressed as a German soldier as part of a Hogan’s Heroes TV show theme at a fraternity party.
Hogan’s Heroes, which ran from 1965 to 1971, was set in a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.
“I understand how disturbing this image is to members of the Gettysburg College community, and especially those who are Jewish,” Garthwait, 58, said in the statement, distributed as part of an email sent to the college community by Gettysburg president Janet Morgan Riggs. “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.”
It’s the latest instance of controversy on decades-old yearbook photos. Earlier this year, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was under pressure to resign after a racist photo was found on his medical school yearbook page.
Riggs said in her statement that she met with the student who found the photo in the Gettysburg College yearbook and will continue to have conversations.
“I encourage you to reach out to one another in support of our Jewish community members,” Riggs wrote. “Anti-Semitism clearly contradicts our values as an institution today, as it did when this photo was taken.”
Garthwait, a 1982 alumnus and CEO of Cly-Del Manufacturing in Waterbury, funded a leadership center on campus and in 1997 received a young alumnus award from the college. His family’s name appears on the college’s Benefactors Wall, which recognizes individuals and organizations that have donated $1 million or more.
As a student at Gettysburg, Garthwait belonged to Alpha Chi Rho fraternity, according to the Gettysburgian, the student newspaper.
In his statement, he apologized and asked for forgiveness.
“My sincere hope is that our current students will learn from my poor judgment 38 years ago,” he said, “and be more thoughtful than I was about the impact of their actions on others.”