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Robert M. Gates '65 to speak at William & Mary's Charter Day

  • Charter Day speaker
    Charter Day speaker  Former U.S. Secretary of Defense and William & Mary alumnus Robert M. Gates '65 will serve as the keynote speaker at the College's 2012 Charter Day ceremony.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Honorary degree
    Honorary degree  Professor Emeritus of Government James A. Bill, who served as the College's first director of the Reves Center for International Studies, will be honored at the event and receive an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Former U.S. Secretary of Defense and William & Mary alumnus Robert M. Gates ’65 will serve as the keynote speaker at the College’s 2012 Charter Day ceremony. Gates, who is the first defense secretary in the nation’s history to serve under presidents from different political parties, will also be invested as the College’s 24th Chancellor at the ceremony. In addition to Gates, Professor Emeritus of Government James A. Bill, who served as the College’s first director of the Reves Center for International Studies, will be honored at the event and receive an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters.

The Charter Day ceremony, which is open to the public, marks the 319th anniversary of the awarding of the royal charter from King William III and Queen Mary II of England establishing the College. Tickets are not required for the event, which will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, 2012 at William & Mary Hall. Gates, who was named the College’s next Chancellor earlier this year, succeeds retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

“This year’s Charter Day will be one to remember,” said President Taylor Reveley. “Not only will we get to celebrate William & Mary’s 319th birthday, but we will also welcome back to campus Secretary Gates, one of our most distinguished alumni, and install him as our next Chancellor. The event will also give the College the opportunity to honor one of our preeminent professors and leaders. As the founding director of the Reves Center, Jim Bill had a great impact on international education at William & Mary.”

Robert M. Gates

Gates will be the first William & Mary alumnus in the modern era to serve as Chancellor of the College. The post has a long tradition at the College, dating back to William & Mary’s origin in 1693 by Royal Charter from King William III and Queen Mary II. The Chancellor initially was an English subject – usually the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop of London -- and served as the College’s advocate to the crown while a colonial president oversaw the day-to-day activities of the Williamsburg campus. Following the Revolutionary War, George Washington became William & Mary’s first American chancellor and U.S. President John Tyler later held the post.

Robert M. Gates '65 addresses graduates at William and Mary's commencement in May 2007.  (Photo by Stephen Salpukas)Typically, the Chancellor serves in that honorary post for seven years. The Chancellor plays an important role in the life of the university, participating in major ceremonies and other events on campus and meeting periodically with students and other members of the campus community.  Over the past three decades, the former Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, have all served as Chancellor.

Gates, who already holds an honorary doctorate from William & Mary, retired earlier this summer after leading the U.S. Department of Defense under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Prior to becoming defense secretary, Gates served in numerous capacities in the Executive Branch and worked for eight presidents during his time in public service. From 2002 to 2006, he was president of Texas A&M University.

Gates began a career in public service soon after he graduated from William & Mary 46 years ago. In 1966, he joined the Central Intelligence Agency and spent nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional, serving six presidents. During that period, he worked 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 become the agency’s director – a post he held from 1991 to 1993. 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. Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal, and has received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal three times and the CIA’s highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, three times. Gates took office on Dec. 18, 2006 as the nation’s 22nd defense secretary. When he retired from the post in June, President Obama awarded Secretary Gates the Presidential Medal of Freedom at his farewell ceremony on June 30th. The medal is the highest honor a president can bestow on a civilian.

A history major as an undergraduate at William & Mary, Gates has received a number of honors from the College. At his graduation ceremony in 1965, Gates received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. Recipients are selected based on characteristics of heart, mind and helpfulness to others. In 1998, he 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 returned to campus to deliver the commencement address in 2007.

James A. Bill

Bill joined the College’s faculty in 1987 as a chaired professor in the Department of Government. In 1989, he became the Wendy and Emery Reves Professor of International Studies and became the first director of the newly founded Reves Center for International Studies. He came to William & Mary following a distinguished career as a professor of political science at the University of Texas.

Professor Emeritus of Government James A. Bill, pictured here at the Reves Center’s 20th anniversary celebration in 2009, will be honored an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters during the Charter Day ceremony.For more than a decade, Bill molded the Reves Center into one of the country’s leading undergraduate international studies programs. Today, the center coordinates many of the university’s international programs and activities. This includes playing a key role in oversight of study abroad programs, providing services for international students and scholars, and supporting faculty international research.

Bill is considered one of the world’s top scholars on Iran and has authored or co-authored ten books, including the highly acclaimed The Eagle and Lion, which explores the relationship between the United States and Iran from the 1940s through the Iranian revolution. Bill was also asked to write the authorized biography of American diplomat George Ball. In 1998, he published George Ball: Behind the Scenes in U.S. Foreign Policy.

Bill was also known as an exceptional teacher at William & Mary. In 1992, the graduating international relations students voted to present him with an outstanding faculty award, which recognized a teacher who played an especially important role in their learning at the College. That same year, the James A. Bill Study Abroad Scholarship Endowment was established at the College.

Bill retired as director of the Reves Center in 1998 but remained active as a mentor, teacher and scholar in the government department. He continued to offer classes in Middle East politics and was instrumental in creating the College’s Middle Eastern Interdisciplinary Program. In 2004, Bill officially retired from the College and was awarded emeritus status.

Bill graduated with his bachelor’s degree in foreign affairs and philosophy from Assumption College. He earned a master’s degree in political science from Penn State University, a master’s in politics and his Ph.D. in politics and Near East Studies from Princeton. Bill also served two terms of the prestigious Overseers Committee to Visit the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.