EVMS president calls 1984 yearbook photo ‘shockingly abhorrent’

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY/AP) — Eastern Virginia Medical School’s president is directing an external investigation into the school’s yearbooks and campus cultures after a racist picture from Gov. Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook page surfaced — calling the photo “shockingly abhorrent.”

The photo shows a picture of a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood next to different pictures of the governor.

After the photo was published Friday, Northam said in a statement he is “deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.”

VIDEO: Northam issues video statement, says he plans to finish term

A Virginia Democrat who spoke with Northam told the Associated Press Saturday morning that after further reflection the governor said he has no memory of wearing either of the racist costumes and doesn’t not believe he is in the picture.

EVMS President Richard Homan, MD, issued a statement Saturday saying the school shares “the outrage, alarm and sadness voiced by our alumni, the press and many on social media.”

Later he said he would direct an external investigation into the school’s past yearbooks, figure out the process for publishing those yearbooks, see if any administrative oversight was exercised and examine their campus culture. 

The investigation will be conducted by a panel made up of “advocates for diversity and inclusion representative of our greater community, including African Americans and other people of color,” Homan said.

Homan, who is also the dean of EVMS’ School of Medicine, added that the photo is “absolutely antithetical to the principles, morals and values we hold and espouse of our educational and research institution and our professions.”

I can find no explanation for how such a picture was able to be published in the past. This is a time for self-reflection and humility. On behalf of our beloved EVMS, I sincerely apologize for the past transgressions of your trust.  We recognize the need to address and rectify any issues of racism and discrimination that arise — and will continue to take action to build a strong culture of diversity and inclusion.
Therefore, I shall convene urgent meeting of members of our senior management leadership and members of our Boards to address this issue holistically for EVMS. We will, of course, include students, residents, faculty and staff in this work.

-EVMS President Richard Homan 

Vincent Rhodes, EVMS vice president of marketing and communications, said in a statement Friday evening the school’s yearbook was produced as a “student-led activity” from 1976 to 2012.

According to the EVMS website, Northam earned his medical degree from school in 1984, and later joined the school as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

Nearly all of of Northam’s political base has called for his resignation since the yearbook photo surfaced. The Democrat who spoke with the Associated Press said Northam has no immediate plans to resign.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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