William & Mary Chancellor Robert M. Gates ’65, L.H.D. ’98, who served as U.S. secretary of defense under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, will speak at William & Mary Law School's diploma ceremony, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 17 at Lake Matoaka Amphitheater.
Approximately 216 students in the J.D. and LL.M. programs will receive their degrees during the ceremony. Seating is limited to graduates and their guests.
“William and Mary Law School has a long and distinguished tradition of attracting exceptional speakers to our graduation,” said Blake Christopher, a third-year law student and 2014-15 president of the Student Bar Association. “Secretary Gates furthers that tradition. His history of service, to both political parties, personifies the true nature of a public servant. We are honored to have Secretary Gates, and we hope his story inspires the next generation of lawyers to utilize their degrees in a creative and service-oriented way.”
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. He 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.
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 was named 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.
Gates’s ties to his alma mater run deep. He has been a trustee of the William & Mary Foundation Board and spoke at Charter Day in 1998, Commencement in 2007, and the Law School Diploma Ceremony in 2013. He received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the College in 1998 and the Alumni Medallion, the Alumni Association's highest honor, in 2000. He was named the 24th chancellor by the College of William & Mary Board of Visitors in 2012.
An Eagle Scout himself, Gates was elected to a two-year term as national president of the Boy Scouts of America in 2014.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.