Former Defense Secretary to Receive Byrd Award
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates addresses the VMI Corps of Cadets during his last visit to VMI, as the Class of 2008 graduation speaker. – VMI file photo.
LEXINGTON, Va., Oct. 22, 2012 -- Former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will receive the Harry F. Byrd Jr. ’35 Public Service Award in VMI’s Cameron Hall Friday, Oct. 26. Gates will address the VMI Corps of Cadets and the public during the ceremony, which will begin at 10:15 a.m. Afterward, at 11:35 a.m., he will take review of a parade of the VMI Corps of Cadets.
Gates, who is now chancellor of the College of William and Mary, his alma mater, served as U.S. secretary of defense from 2006 to 2011. He was the first defense secretary in U.S. history to serve under presidents from both political parties, having led the defense department under former President George W. Bush and under President Barack Obama. During his entire tenure, the nation was at war on two fronts. Gates made 13 trips to Iraq, returning to secure mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles for troops on the ground and better care for wounded soldiers at home. When Gates retired as secretary, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a president can bestow on a civilian.
Prior to being named the 22nd secretary of defense, Gates served as president of Texas A&M University; was chairman of the Independent Trustees of The Fidelity Funds, the nation’s largest mutual fund company; and was on the boards of directors of several major companies. Gates served as director of central intelligence from 1991 until 1993. He is the only career officer in the CIA’s history to rise from entry-level employee to director. He served as deputy director of central intelligence from 1986 until 1989 and as assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser at the White House from Jan. 20, 1989, until Nov. 6, 1991, for President George H.W. Bush.
Gates joined the Central Intelligence Agency 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 serving four presidents of both political parties. Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal, has twice received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and has three times received CIA’s highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.
The Byrd Award was established in 2001 to honor a public official who has made significant civic contributions. The award selection committee includes members of the Byrd family and state and VMI officials. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. is an alumnus of the VMI Class of 1935; he served in the Navy during World War II and in the Virginia Senate and the United States Senate for a total of 35 years.