Former U.S. senator and Naval Academy alumnus Jim Webb is set to receive a distinguished graduate award from his alma mater’s alumni association Friday, but some graduates think the honor should be rescinded.
Webb is undeserving, they say, because he wrote an essay criticizing the admission of women to the service academies for Washingtonian Magazine in 1979.
Several alumni have characterized the article as a “manifesto” that empowered male midshipmen to harass their female classmates, the Annapolis Capital Gazette reported.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Laureen Miklos, who graduated in 1981, told the Capital Gazette the decision by the Naval Academy Alumni Association to give Webb its Distinguished Graduate Award was “a hit to the gut.” According to Miklos, who taught at Annapolis from 1998 to 2001, Webb’s 38-year-old essay still rings out in the halls and dorms of the academy as a “living document.”
Kelly Henry, a 1984 graduate, also criticized Webb’s inclusion among this year’s award winners, telling the Capital Gazette that the article caused “harm” to many of her female classmates. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Deployed US Navy Has A Pregnancy Problem, And It’s Getting Worse)
Webb graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968 and went on to serve as a rifle platoon and company commander during the Vietnam War. Among other accolades, he earned the Navy Cross for heroism and two Purple Hearts for injuries that ended his military career.
After his military days, Webb served as secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and was elected a U.S. senator from Virginia, serving one term from 2006 to 2012. He is also a distinguished author of 10 fiction and non-fiction books, including the popular history “Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America.”
In his Washingtonian piece, Webb didn’t hold back about his feelings toward women in combat roles.
“There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat. And their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation,” he wrote.
Webb has since moderated his position on opening up military roles to women. In the wake of complaints about his receiving the alumni association award, he apologized for any harm his article caused female midshipmen.
“Clearly, if I had been a more mature individual, there are things that I would not have said in that magazine article,” he said in a statement. “To the extent that this article subjected women at the academy or the armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.”
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