Former Secretary of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency Director Robert Gates will visit the CU Boulder campus Feb. 28 through March 1, delivering a public address, spending time in the classroom and kicking off a new speaker series aimed at inspiring and illustrating leadership.
Gates is the first speaker in a newly launched leadership speaker series run by the Newton Chair in Leadership. The position is now held by former CU President Alexander “Sandy” Bracken. The new Leo Hill Distinguished Leadership Speaker Series is funded by the estate of and named after a well-known Boulder banker and philanthropist.
“Robert Gates served eight presidents beginning with Jimmy Carter and served as secretary of defense under two administrations of two different political parties - George W. Bush and President Obama,” Bracken said. “That alone speaks volumes about his character and leadership skills.”
Gates joined the CIA in 1966 as an entry-level intelligence professional and spent 27 years climbing the ranks before becoming CIA director in 1991. After a stint as president of Texas A&M University, he was named secretary of defense by President George W. Bush in 2006.
Under President Barack Obama, he became the only secretary of defense in U.S. history to have been asked to remain in the office by a newly elected president. On his last day in office, Obama awarded Gates the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the government’s highest civilian honor.
Gates has since authored three memoirs, including “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” which recounts his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan; “From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won The Cold War,” which details his CIA career; and most recently “A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from 50 Years of Public Service.” He also holds a PhD in Russian and Soviet history.
“We are planning to bring in speakers who are highly recognized in terms of national and global leadership, and who have had a distinguished career whatever that career field might be,” said Bracken.
The series aims to bring a distinguished leader to campus for two days each year, for a public address and informal visits with students. It’s the latest implementation of the Newton Chair’s mission to foster leadership skills in students. (A new Leadership Studies minor was established in 2012 and now hosts nearly 400 students).