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WASHINGTON — Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been named the next chancellor of the College of William & Mary, his alma mater, in Virginia.

Gates, a history major, dormitory manger and Young Republican in the class of 1965, will return to his undergraduate school to succeed Sandra Day O’Connor, former Supreme Court justice, whose term ends in February 2012.

“I am deeply honored to have been asked to return to the College of William & Mary, my alma mater, to serve as Chancellor,” Gates said in a statement. “The time I spent at William & Mary as an undergraduate student shaped my life and I look forward to working with the students, staff, faculty and the William & Mary community. It is a privilege to follow such outstanding leaders as Sandra Day O’Connor, Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher.”

The College of William & Mary is a state university located in Williamsburg, Va., dating to 1693. Gates has kept close ties to the school, receiving an honorary doctorate in 1998 and an alumni award. He is continuing a military tradition; George Washington also was chancellor, a largely ceremonial role.

“In Bob, one of our nation’s oldest colleges has found one of our nation’s finest public servants,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

Gates has had a focus on higher education throughout his life. He earned a master’s degree in history from Indiana University and a doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University. After retiring from government service as CIA director in 1993, Gates went on to serve as president of Texas A&M from 2002 to 2006, before being nominated by President George W. Bush as secretary of defense.

“It is absolutely wonderful to welcome Secretary Gates back to campus in this new role,” William & Mary President Taylor Reveley said. “He is an extraordinary example of what it means to devote a lifetime to making a difference for the better for your country.”

baronk@stripes.osd.mil

Twitter: @StripesBaron

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