William and Mary Law School

Robert M. Gates to Speak at Graduation

  • Chancellor Gates to Speak
    Chancellor Gates to Speak
    Robert M. Gates, a 1965 graduate of the College, was invested as William & Mary's 24th Chancellor in 2012, the first alumnus of the modern era to serve in the honorary role. He will speak at the Law School's graduation on May 12.
    Stephen Salpukas

William & Mary Chancellor Robert M. Gates, who served as U.S. secretary of defense under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, will give the address at William & Mary Law School's graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 12. The ceremony, which will be held at Lake Matoaka Amphitheatre, begins at 2:30 p.m. Approximately 240 students in the J.D. and LL.M. programs will receive their diplomas. Seating is limited to graduates and their guests.

Gates has visited the law school twice to speak to students since becoming the university's chancellor in February 2012.  Lee Tankle, a third-year law student and 2012-13 president of the Student Bar Association, said that his classmates were honored to have Gates speak at graduation because his career illustrated "the incredible impact one can have as a public servant."

Tankle added that, during his visits to the Law School, Gates said that throughout his governmental career he often turned to staff with legal training when he needed a thorough analysis of an issue. This insight, Tankle said, was a "powerful reminder that lawyers can provide a tremendous service to their country."

Robert M. Gates

Gates, the only person in American history to serve as secretary of defense for presidents from different political parties, retired in 2011 after leading the U.S. Department of Defense under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Prior to becoming defense secretary, Gates held numerous roles in the Executive Branch - serving eight presidents during his career.

Gates began his public service soon after receiving an undergraduate degree in history from the College of William & Mary in 1965. The following year, he joined the Central Intelligence Agency and spent nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional, including nine years at the National Security Council. Gates is the only career officer in the CIA's history to rise from entry-level employee to become the agency's director - a post he held from 1991 to 1993. He served as deputy director of the CIA from 1986 to 1989 and as assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser at the White House from 1989 to 1991 for President George H. W. Bush.

After leaving the CIA, Gates, who holds a doctorate from Georgetown University, lectured at some of the country's leading universities before being named dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. In 2002, he became president of Texas A&M, a role he held until 2006 when he returned to Washington, D.C., as the nation's 22nd secretary of defense.

One of America's most decorated citizens, Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal. He also received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal three times and the CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, three times. Upon Gates' retirement as defense secretary, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a president can bestow on a civilian.

Gates has received a number of honors from William & Mary. At his graduation in 1965, he received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, which recognizes characteristics of heart, mind and helpfulness to others. In 1998, Gates spoke at Charter Day and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The Alumni Association awarded Gates the Alumni Medallion, its highest honor, in 2000. He also returned to campus to deliver the university's commencement address in 2007.