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U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates ('65) to address William and Mary graduates during commencement exercises May 20, 2007

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, a member of the Class of 1965, is scheduled to deliver the 2007 commencement address at the College of William and Mary on May 20. In addition, alumnus William M. Kelso, director of archaeology for the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and the Jamestown Rediscovery Project, and William T. Coleman, Jr., former Robert M. Gatessecretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation and noted civil rights advocate and legal scholar, will receive honorary degrees at the ceremony. William and Mary Chancellor and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will also be in attendance.

Gates took office on Dec. 18, 2006, as the nation’s 22nd defense secretary.

“Bob Gates’ service to his country – and his alma mater – reflects the compelling tradition of public engagement that distinguishes William and Mary, long the wellspring of American leadership,” said William and Mary President Gene R. Nichol. “Already he’s reminded us, in his short weeks at the Pentagon, why so many think so much of his service—including past U.S. presidents and one of our notable sister public universities in College Station, Texas.”

“Our College community also welcomes, with honor almost beyond words, Secretary Bill Coleman, a lion in civil rights law who helped reshape our nation through its highest courts during the last half of the twentieth century, and welcomes back Bill Kelso, an alumnus who’s done more than anyone else to help us understand the Jamestown of four centuries ago.”

Kelso, who is known as one of the country’s foremost historical archaeologists in early American history and led the team that located the James Fort, will receive an honorary doctorate of science. Coleman, who has held advisory or consultant positions to seven presidents, was one of the authors of legal briefs presented in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education. He will receive an honorary doctorate of laws. Gates previously received an honorary doctor of humane letters from the College in 1998.

President George W. Bush nominated Gates in November to succeed Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary. His nomination was unanimously approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 5, 2006, and by the full U.S. Senate the next day. He came to the position with a wealth of experience – working in numerous capacities within presidential administrations, international affairs and higher education during his more than 40 years of public service. Prior to taking the present post as defense secretary, Gates had served as president of Texas A&M University since 2002. 

Previously, he headed the Central Intelligence Agency from 1991 to 1993. Gates joined the CIA in 1966 and spent nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional, serving six presidents. During that period, he spent nearly 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 director. He served as deputy director of the CIA from 1986 until 1989 and as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser at the White House from January 1989 until November 1991 for President George H.W. Bush. He has been awarded the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal, and has received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal twice and the CIA’s highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, three times.

A history major as an uU.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.ndergraduate at William and Mary, the accolades and honors for Gates began early in his career. During his own graduation ceremony in 1965, Gates received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, which is given each year during the College’s commencement exercises. Recipients are selected based on characteristics of heart, mind and helpfulness to others. In 2000, the Alumni Association awarded Gates the Alumni Medallion, its highest honor.

Gates’ dedication to service also took form during his years at William and Mary. As an undergraduate, he was an active member of Alpha Phi Omega, a service-oriented organization, and served as the group’s president during his senior year. While at the College, Gates also served as a dormitory manager and helped entering students become acquainted to the College as an orientation aide. Gates was also active in the Young Republicans and served as business manager of the William and Mary Review, a literary and art magazine.

A native of Kansas, Gates earned his master’s degree in history from Indiana University and his doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University. He and his wife Becky have two adult children.

William Kelso also has a strong connection to William and Mary and the Commonwealth. In 1964, he received his master’s degree in history from William and Mary and has served as an adjunct professor at the College since 1995.

Even before he became director of archaeology at the APVA and the Jamestown Rediscovery Project, Kelso built a reputation as one of America’s top historical archaeologists in early American history and led archaeology efforts at many of the state’s best-known historical sites. He has served as director of archaeology at Colonial Williamsburg’s Carter’s Grove, as well as director of archaeology from 1986 to 1993 at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and from 1989 to 1991 at Poplar Forest. He was also commissioner of archaeology for the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission.

In 1993, Kelso joined the APVA and began the effort to search for James Fort and dispel the previous notion that the fort was lost to the James River. Led by Kelso, the excavation began in 1994 and the team compiled enough evidence by 1996 to announce they had discovered the remains of James Fort.

A native of Ohio, Kelso received his bachelor’s degree in history from Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio. After receiving his master’s degree from William and Mary, Kelso received his Ph.D. from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

In addition to his work at William and Mary, Kelso has served as a lecturer at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture since 1976. He has also lectured throughout the U.S. and Europe and has authored or contributed to numerous books – including Jamestown: The Buried Truth, which was published in 2006.

William T. Coleman, Jr. is a senior counselor in the national and international law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP in Washington D.C. He joined the firm in 1977 after serving as Secretary of Transportation under President Gerald Ford from 1975 to 1977. While transportation secretary, Coleman was involved in the reorganizations of several major railroads, the substantial completion of the Interstate Highway System, the significant start of the Washington subway system, and the U.S. landing rights of the British-French Concorde; he was also instrumental in the beginning of the deregulation of the trucking, airline and railroad industries and the requirement of airbags in automobiles. Following his government service and prior to joining O’Melveny & Myers, Coleman was a Distinguished Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In addition to serving in President Ford’s cabinet, Coleman has held numerous public service positions – including senior consultant and senior counsel to the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy in 1964; member of President Eisenhower’s Committee on Government Employment Policy (the Branch Rickey Committee) from 1959 through 1961; member of the Federal Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; and member of the U.S. Delegation to the 24th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1969.

An ardent defender of civil rights, Coleman was one of the authors of the amicus briefs that persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 to outlaw racial segregation in public schools. In 1965, he was retained by former Gov. William Scranton of Pennsylvania to assist in removing racial restrictions at Girard College in Philadelphia. He serves as Senior Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., after serving as chairman of the board from 1977 to 1997. Coleman has briefed and argued 19 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2004, the William and Mary Law School awarded Coleman its Marshall-Wythe Medallion, the highest honor given by faculty each year at the law school. It recognizes outstanding leaders from the bench, bar and academia.

Coleman received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylania in 1941. He started at Harvard Law School in 1941 but missed nearly three years to serve in the Air Corps of the Army. He graduated magna cum laude in 1946.