LEXINGTON — The Omicron Delta Kappa Society and Educational Foundation Board of Trustees presented Robert M. Gates with its 2022 Laurel Crowned Circle Award.
The award was presented on Dec. 8 at a ceremony in Wren Chapel on the campus of William & Mary. Omicron Delta Kappa’s Board Chair Sandra B. Thurmond and President and Chief Executive Officer Tara S. Singer presented the award.
First presented in 1980, the Laurel Crowned Circle Award is the highest individual honor awarded by Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK). Recipients are exceptional leaders in their fields or noted for their service in advancing leadership development, according to a press release.
Award winners also demonstrate the highest ideals of the society: Collaboration, inclusivity, integrity, scholarship, and service.
Gates received his bachelor’s degree in history from William & Mary and began a public service career soon after graduating. In 1966, he joined the Central Intelligence Agency, working for six presidents for nearly 27 years as an intelligence officer, and was a National Security Council staff member for nine years.
According to the release, Gates is the only career officer in the CIA’s history to rise from being an entry-level employee to becoming the agency’s director, a post he held from 1991-93. In 2006, he became the 22nd Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush, and was asked to continue in that role under President Barack Obama — the only person in American history to serve presidents from different political parties.
In June 2011, upon his retirement as Secretary of Defense, President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. He has also received the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal. Gates was awarded the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal twice and the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the CIA’s highest award, three times.
He is the author of three memoirs about his experiences in public service.
As an undergraduate, Gates was a member of several campus organizations, and at graduation, he received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given “to honor splendid characteristics of heart, mind, and helpfulness to others.” He received his master’s in history from Indiana University and a doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown.
From 2002-06, Gates was president of Texas A&M University. He was named the 24th chancellor of William & Mary by the Board of Visitors at his investiture in 2012. Gates was re-invested for a second term in 2019 —the first alumnus to hold this ceremonial position in William & Mary’s modern era, according to the release. Gates has been a trustee of the William & Mary Foundation Board. He received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the university in 1998 and the Alumni Medallion, the Alumni Association’s highest honor, in 2000.
Past recipients of the Laurel Crowned Circle Award include former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, former U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, author James MacGregor Burns, and President of the United Negro College Fund Michael Lomax, among others.