- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

RICHMOND (AP) — The College of William & Mary has named former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates as its next chancellor.

College officials said Tuesday that Mr. Gates will become the Williamsburg college’s 24th chancellor in February, replacing retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in the honorary post when her seven-year term ends.

“William and Mary instills in its students a sense of duty to community and country,” Mr. Gates said in a statement. “I look forward to doing all that I can to continue and build on these traditions.”

Gates, 67, received his undergraduate degree in history from William & Mary in 1965. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966, eventually becoming its director in 1991-93. He took office as defense secretary in 2006 under President George W. Bush, continued under President Obama and retired from the job in June.

Mr. Gates served as president of Texas A&M University in 2002-06.

“As he did at Texas A&M and the Department of Defense, Bob will again help lead an institution devoted to our nation’s most precious resource — our young men and women,” Mr. Obama said in a statement Tuesday.

Since the college’s founding in 1693 by a charter from Britain’s King William III and Queen Mary II, the chancellor served as the college’s advocate to the British crown. Initially, the archbishop of Canterbury or the bishop of London served as chancellor while a Colonial president oversaw the college’s operations.

After the Revolutionary War, George Washington was William & Mary’s first American chancellor.

In modern times, the chancellor participates in major campus events and interacts with students and other members of the William & Mary community.

Others who have served as William & Mary’s chancellor include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

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