The Evergreen State College is investigating a long-time instructor who appears to have embellished his military record in campus course catalogs by claiming to have been awarded medals for valor and combat wounds.
The college has not announced whether it will take disciplinary action against Daryl Morgan, 65, a woodworking instructor and Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War.
Morgan declined to speak on the record with The News Tribune about his service record. He also did not provide any information to the newspaper or to the Evergreen administration to prove he had received the medals.
Morgan has taught classes at Evergreen for 14 years, and since 2013 he has led a class intended to help veterans succeed in an academic setting. On Tuesday he stepped down from teaching that course following a meeting with Evergreen administrators regarding his military records, Evergreen spokeswoman Meryl Lipman said.
Morgan’s biography in Evergreen’s last two evening and weekend course catalogs says that he received a Silver Star, Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and four Air Medals. The biography appears in materials that promote offerings for veterans at the college. Morgan wrote his own biography, Lipman said.
Morgan has told peers and students that he served in Special Operations units in Southeast Asia.
His official military record, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by another Vietnam veteran from Olympia, says Morgan served in the war, and it credits him with standard medals for service in Vietnam. But it does not indicate that he was awarded the higher-level medals he claims.
Thomas Kelley, a retired Navy lieutenant commander and the director of Evergreen’s veterans service office, reported the new documents to the school’s administration.
“Obviously we are taking it very seriously,” Lipman said.
Kelley said Evergreen no longer would print Morgan’s biography in course catalogs.
“Daryl claims to be something he’s not,” Kelley said.
“It just breaks my heart,” he added. “This does not reflect Evergreen’s view of veterans or its commitment to helping veterans.”
Kelley is expected to lead the veterans class that Morgan is leaving this quarter, Lipman said.
Kelley said the combat medals Morgan listed in his biography would appear on his military service record if he had received them, even if he was awarded them for actions in one of the Vietnam War’s unofficial combat zones, such as Cambodia or Laos.
“If he had received any of those awards, they would have been on that sheet,” Kelley said. “When Navy SEALs are discharged, their awards are not secret.”
The medals that Morgan claimed in his recent biographies were not a factor in his hiring 14 years ago, Lipman said.
News of the university potentially disciplining Morgan spread among some of his students. One characterized him as a well-liked instructor who inspired many woodworking students over the years.
“He is a mentor not only to me but to many, many others,” said Rebecca Rogers of Olympia, who is concerned that students will lose a unique instructor if Evergreen disciplines Morgan.
“My passion for woodworking is due to him, and any skill I have is because of him,” Rogers said. “I’m so, so desperately sad.”
Jeff Russell, 62, filed the FOIA request to obtain Morgan’s service records. Russell said he met Morgan several years ago, and they discussed the time they both spent in Southeast Asia.
Russell said he had hoped the FOIA request would show that Morgan had the medals claimed in the biography.
“You don’t expect someone who’s been there to magnify it,” Russell said.
Morgan served on the USS Jamestown, according to his military records. It was an intelligence-gathering ship that frequently deployed to the South China Sea during the war, according to the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships.
Sailors on the Jamestown are known to have gone ashore in Vietnam, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The ship received a Navy meritorious unit commendation, which is among the medals that Morgan lists on his campus biography.