Former secretary of defense Robert Gates, a native Kansan, will be the first individual to receive an honorary doctorate from Kansas State University.
Gates will be recognized with the honor at commencement for the university’s Graduate School at 1 p.m. Friday, May 11, in Bramlage Coliseum. He also will serve as the commencement speaker at the ceremony.
“It is most fitting that the first person to receive an honorary doctorate from Kansas State University be a native son of the state who has risen to national prominence,” said Kirk Schulz, university president. “While not an alumnus, Dr. Gates is familiar with Kansas State University, serving as a Landon Lecturer in 2007. He also is a former president of Texas A&M University, where he led the school on a plan similar to K-State’s 2025 goal of becoming a top 50 public research institution.”
The Kansas Board of Regents approved the awarding of the honorary degree to Gates at its meeting Thursday. The honor was made possible when the board changed its policy in 2010 to allow state universities to confer honorary degrees.
In 2006, Gates became the 22nd U.S. secretary of defense under the administration of President George W. Bush. He then became the only secretary of defense asked to remain in his post by a newly elected president in 2009, when President Barack Obama took office. Gates stepped down in 2011.
Prior to joining Texas A&M University, first as interim dean of the George Bush School of Government Public Service from 1999-2001 and then as university president from 2002-2005, Gates spent nearly 27 years as intelligence professional. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966, served as director from 1991-1993 and became the only career officer in CIA history to rise from entry-level employee to director. He was deputy director of the CIA from 1986-1989 and served as assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser at the White House from 1989-1991 for President George H.W. Bush. Gates also served in the U.S. Air Force.
His many honors include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, which he received in 2011. Gates also was awarded the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal. He is a three-time recipient of both the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal and the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA’s highest honor.
Born and raised in Wichita, Gates earned his bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary, where he now serves as chancellor. He earned a master’s degree in history from Indiana University and a doctoral degree in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.