Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale (ret.), who received the nation's highest military honor for his bravery while imprisoned by the North Vietnamese, has resigned in frustration as president of the Citadel, South Carolina's venerable military college.
Stockdale told The Washington Post in a telephone interview that "I was swimming upstream and the current was getting stronger" as the Citadel's board of visitors balked at reforming the 138-year-old institution.
Stockdale said the board reluctantly went along with curbing the hazing of freshmen at the Citadel, but refused to approve recommended academic and management changes.
The Citadel is an all-male military school of 2,000 students subjected to traditional military disipline, including lights out at 11 p.m. Trips off campus can be made only when authorized.
Stockdale, who resigned Monday, was the first Navy officer to hold the presidency of the Citadel. He succeeded Lt. Gen. George M. Seignious (ret.) last August. President Carter months earlier had appointed Seignious to head the government's Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
"I had the responsibility without the authority," Stockdale complained in explaining his departure after one year as Citadel president. "I just got tired of hassling the board of visitors," a body of 12 South Carolina civilians who resisted change, according to the admiral.
Stockdale said an outside consulting firm recommended a series of management changes to improve the operation of the Citadel, while the admiral pushed for changes to attract higher quality students.
"It just didn't make any sense," said Stockdale in explaining one revision he could not push through the board: to separate the civilian office of admissions and the military office of recruiting. The should both be coordinated with an eye to finding quality students for the Citadel, Stockdale said.
The admiral, who was president of the Naval War College at Newport, R.I., before joining the Citadel, said he had planned to teach a moral philosophy class at the South Carolina institution in the coming academic year. "I would have been the first president to run a class," he said.
Stockdale said his inspiration for the class came as he was forced to sort out in his mind what did and did not matter while imprisoned in Hanoi's Hoa Lo prison for 7 1/2 years. His resistance and leadership there won him the Medal of Honor. And the principles and previous readings that held him together under frequent torture, Stockdale said, were the underpinnings of the moral philosophy course he first taught at the Naval War College and planned to give at the Citadel.
Stockdale, 56, said he will return to his home in Newport, continue lecturing and perhaps return to the classroom at some other college.