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Larry MacIntyre
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, November 2, 2009

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to speak at IU's 2009 Winter Commencement

Nov. 2, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will present the commencement address at Indiana University Bloomington's 2009 Winter Commencement, Dec. 19, at Assembly Hall, it was announced today (Monday). During the ceremony, he also will receive an honorary doctoral degree from IU.

Gates, who holds a master's degree in history from IU, has served as the nation's 22nd defense secretary since December 2006, when he was sworn in under former President George W. Bush. He is the only defense secretary in U.S. history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly elected president (President Barack Obama). Before assuming his current position, he was president of Texas A&M University, one of the nation's largest universities.

"Secretary Gates is an immensely respected public servant and one of Indiana University's most distinguished alums," said IU President Michael McRobbie, who will preside over the commencement ceremony. "He boasts a long and accomplished career, spanning his time in the military, central intelligence, business and academia, and he has earned plaudits from both sides of the political aisle. Indeed, President Obama's decision to retain his services as secretary of defense spoke volumes about the strength of his service to our nation. He is a strong, wise and diplomatic leader, and we are extremely honored that he has agreed to share some of his experiences and insights with us."

Born Sept. 25, 1943, in Wichita, Kan., Gates earned his master's degree in history at IU Bloomington in 1966, the same year he was recruited to work for the Central Intelligence Agency. He spent nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional, serving six presidents and ultimately rising to director of Central Intelligence, a position he held from 1991 to 1993. He is the only career officer in the history of the CIA to rise from entry-level employee to director.

He served as deputy director of Central Intelligence from 1986 to 1989 and as assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser at the White House from 1989 to 1991 for former President George H.W. Bush.

In 1999, he became interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Three years later, he was named president of Texas A&M, where he dramatically expanded the size of the university's faculty and oversaw the acquisition of more than $1.4 billion in external support and the completion of $500 million in construction projects. Gates served as Texas A&M president until 2007.

Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal. In addition, he has twice received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal and has three times received the CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. He is the author of the memoir, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, published in 1996.

In 2006, he served on the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel charged with assessing the Iraq War. The panel was co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Indiana Rep. and IU alumnus Lee Hamilton.

Gates has also served on the board of directors and executive committee of the American Council on Education, the board of directors of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, and the national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America. He has also been president of the National Eagle Scout Association.

As a graduate student, Gates chose to enroll at IU because of its position as "a national leader in the field of Russian and East European studies and U.S. foreign affairs," wrote David Ransel, the Robert F. Byrnes Professor of History and director of the Russian and East European Institute at IU Bloomington, in a letter to IU's Honorary Degree Committee. Gates was recruited by the CIA while a student at Indiana University.

In addition to his master's degree from IU, Gates holds a bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary and a doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University. In 1967, he was commissioned as second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and served for one year as an intelligence officer at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

His wife, Rebecca, earned her master's degree in education at IU Bloomington in 1967. The couple has two adult children, Eleanor and Bradley. Eleanor is a 1997 graduate of the IU School of Journalism.