Message from the President - February 19, 2019

Dear members of the campus community:

On Sunday afternoon it came to my attention that a photograph appearing in a 1980 Gettysburg College yearbook shows Trustee Bob Garthwait and fellow students dressed in Nazi guard uniforms at what appears to be a social event. I am sure that all of you will find this image to be deeply disturbing—and I encourage you to reach out to one another in support of our Jewish community members. Anti-semitism clearly contradicts our values as an institution today, as it did when this photo was taken.

Yesterday Dean Ramsey and I met with the student who found this photo and a student representing Hillel to hear their reactions. We are committed to continuing these conversations with these students and with other community members.

I have spoken with Bob Garthwait about this photograph, and he asked me to share the following message with you:

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.

In addition, 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 rededication among all of us to creating a climate in which all feel welcome.

Janet Morgan Riggs