Va. Military Institute Commandant Retires Amid Racial Reckoning


Virginia Military Institute commandant William Wanovich will retire at the end of the academic year, the college announced and The Washington Post reported this weekend.

Wanovich came under scrutiny for posing in a photo mocking Hispanics at a Halloween party three years ago. VMI officials told the Post that Wanovich’s retirement was not related to the photo or other investigations into racism at the institution.

The newspaper published a series of stories in the past year detailing racism and Confederate veneration at the military college, prompting Governor Ralph Northam to launch an independent investigation into structural racism at the public institution. VMI’s superintendent, General J. H. Binford Peay III, resigned in October.

The photo in question features Wanovich posing alongside students at the annual cadets’ Halloween costume party in 2017. The students were dressed in cardboard boxes with the words “Keep Out” and “No Cholos” — a slur against Hispanic people — written on them, in a reference to President Trump’s proposed border wall.

In a statement released at the time, the college said the costume “was in poor taste and demonstrated a lack of appreciation that it was offensive … The VMI leadership does not tolerate this type of behavior and is addressing the matter with the Corps of Cadets.”

Wanovich did not respond to requests for comment by the Post. A spokesperson for the college told the paper Wanovich instilled professionalism and integrity to the Corps of Cadets during his time as commandant. “We appreciate his dedication to the institute and service to the nation and commonwealth.”

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