RICHMOND, Va. — A retired Army lieutenant colonel and military historian has been selected to become the Virginia War Memorial’s executive director when its longtime leader retires next month.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch ( ) reports that John C. “Clay” Mountcastle, a professor of military history at Fort Lee, was chosen from a field of more than 70 applicants to succeed Jon Hatfield.

The Richmond memorial, which first opened in 1956, was on the verge of collapse when Hatfield became the memorial’s first employee in 1997. Hatfield, who will retire June 15, oversaw the restoration of the monument and the addition of an 18,000-square-foot education center.

A $23 million project to expand the memorial’s shrine to include veterans who have died since 9/11 is currently ongoing.

The memorial drew more than 70,000 visitors last year.

Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch,