Skip Navigation

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Comes to OU

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Comes to OU

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will speak at a President’s Associates dinner Oct. 21.

NORMAN – Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011, will speak at a President’s Associates dinner at the University of Oklahoma on Tuesday, Oct. 21. Prior to dinner, Gates will meet with OU students for an informal discussion.        

Gates was sworn in as the 22nd Secretary of Defense on Dec. 18, 2006. He is the only Secretary of Defense in U.S. history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly elected president. Throughout his career, Gates served as a trusted adviser to eight U.S. presidents.

“Bob Gates has devoted his entire life to public service,” said OU President David L. Boren. “He has been a keen observer of American decision making – from his vantage point as CIA Director, Secretary of Defense and at the White House National Security staff. He has served presidents of both political parties with a constant goal of doing what is best for the entire country.”

Under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Gates was tasked with reshaping of U.S. nuclear weapons policies, the removal of troops from Iraq and implementing the resurgence of troops in Afghanistan – culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden.

He was also given another big challenge: reforming the Pentagon during a new era of fiscal restraint and rebalancing priorities to focus not only on preparing for future conflicts but also ensuring the military had what it needed to succeed in its current conflicts.

Considered “The Soldier’s Secretary” for his commitment to placing the men and women in uniform as his top priority, Gates made significant advances in soldier safety, including replacing vehicles in the field with heavily armored vehicles, which reduced roadside bomb attacks and fatalities by almost 90 percent.

On Gates’ last day in office, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

Gates joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966 and spent nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional prior to assuming his current position. During that period, he spent nearly nine years at the National Security Council and the White House, serving four presidents of both political parties.

He was 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 to 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 has been awarded the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal. He has twice received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal and is a three-time recipient of the CIA’s highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.

He has authored two memoirs – DUTY: Memoirs of a Secretary at War (2014) a New York Times No. 1 best-seller, is a straightforward, vividly written account of his experience serving Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War (1996), which details his career as a CIA officer at the center of power during a time when the threat of global annihilation informed America’s every move.

Gates, who was president of a Big 12 university for five years, has served on the board of directors and executive committee of the American Council on Education and the board of directors of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. He also has served on the national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America and is a past president of the National Eagle Scout Association.

Born in Kansas, Gates earned his bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary, master’s degree in history from Indiana University, and doctoral degree in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.

Gates has previously visited the Norman campus – first as one of the distinguished speakers at OU’s first foreign policy conference in 1997, and also as Commencement speaker in 2011. He is an honorary founding board member of the OU International Programs Center’s Board of Visitors. As Commencement speaker, he received an honorary degree from OU in 2011.

Limited seating is available by reservation for OU students, faculty and staff, with overflow seating available to the public. For reservations, more information and accommodations on the basis of disability, please call OU Public Affairs at (405) 325-3784 or email