College of William and Mary President Katherine Rowe announced Sept. 20 that she was reappointing former U.S. defense secretary and Central Intelligence Agency director Robert Gates ’65 to a second term as chancellor. Pending formal approval by the Board of Visitors this week, Gates will begin his second term July 1, 2019.
“Chancellor Gates has been an exceptional ambassador for his alma mater over the past seven years and has been a tremendous resource for me during the presidential transition,” Rowe said in a press statement. “The Chancellor wears his formidable experience and intelligence humbly, and he is very generous with his time to William & Mary. We are delighted he has agreed to continue in this important role.”
Gates began his first term as chancellor in 2012. The position is primarily ceremonial — as chancellor, Gates speaks at events like Homecoming, Charter Day and Commencement. He has regularly conducted on-campus question and answer sessions about international affairs and has also participated in media interviews at the Sir Christopher Wren Building. Gates is also the first alumnus to be named chancellor.
“Robert Gates has been an advocate of the first magnitude for William & Mary,” BOV Rector John Littel said in a press statement. “He is a champion of the value of excellence in higher education and of public service, both of which are core to William & Mary. We could not be more pleased that Dr. Gates has agreed to continue as Chancellor for a second term.”
The position of chancellor dates back to the College’s founding in 1693 with the royal charter from King William III and Queen Mary II. Initially, the position of chancellor was typically filled by the archbishop of Canterbury or the bishop of London, and served as the College’s advocate to the crown. After the Revolutionary War, George Washington became the College’s first chancellor from the United States.
Gates received his bachelor’s degree in history at the College before he joined the CIA, where he worked for 27 years. He also served as the nation’s defense secretary in 2006 under the George W. Bush presidential administration, remaining in that position until 2011. He also has served as the president of Texas A&M University.
“I am delighted to be invited by President Rowe to continue as Chancellor at William & Mary,” Gates said in a press statement. “The university helped greatly in shaping me as a person and informed my career in public service. As Chancellor, it has meant so much to share this close relationship with a new generation of William & Mary students, who are deeply impressive, as well as President Emeritus Taylor Reveley and now President Rowe. I will be honored to continue to serve this institution that has served me so ably.”
Gates was also recognized with an honorary degree in 1998 and was presented with the Alumni Medallion in 2000. Earlier this year, he became chairman of Eisenhower Fellowships, an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit international leadership organization. He is also a principal with the consulting firm of RiceHadleyGates LLC.
Over the last 30 years, former Chief Justice Warren Burger, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor have all served as chancellor at the College.