Former secretary of defense to give keynote address at graduation


Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense.

Sylvia Butanda

Robert Gates, the former secretary of defense and former Texas A&M University president, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the spring commencement ceremony in front of about 8,000 graduates on May 19.

Military science professor Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Kopser said Gates is qualified to speak to UT graduates because he was and will be remembered as one of the best appointees to serve as the secretary of defense.

Gates served as the nation’s 22nd secretary of defense from 2006 to 2011 under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and has served under a total of eight presidents.

“He showed true patriotism, because in a time of war when the Pentagon was in a terrible place with violence, death of Americans and everything going on in Afghanistan, [Gates] came in and set his vision in a positive manner,” Kopser said.

University spokesman Gary Susswein said it is an honor for the University and for graduating seniors that Gates will be in attendance.

“He has been a leader in national affairs and in higher education,” Susswein said. “What he brings with him to campus should provide a meaningful insight about education to our excellent students.”

Gates served as interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University from 1999 to 2001 and president of the university from 2002 to 2006.

Gates is currently chancellor of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Lee Bash, Director of Development at the University Development Office, said having Gates deliver a speech to students would be great considering his background.

“Having Gates come to UT, as a higher education administrator and senior federal official, is good for the University and good for our graduates who will get to listen to him,” Bash said.

Student Government President Natalie Butler, said she has heard Gates speak at other events and finds him incredibly impressive.

“He’s a great commencement speaker,” Butler said. “We’ve had a really interesting year in higher education and Gates has been a leader in the public sector and higher education and I’m excited to hear him speak.”

Printed on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as: Former secretary to speak at commencement