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Former Defense Secretary Gates to headline Union’s 15th annual Scholarship Banquet

Robert Gates
Robert Gates

JACKSON, Tenn.March 1, 2012 – Robert M. Gates, U.S. secretary of defense for two presidents and former president of Texas A&M University, will be the keynote speaker for Union University’s 15th annual Scholarship Banquet Oct. 4 at the Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson, Tenn.

Gates served as defense secretary from 2006-2011, first for George W. Bush and then for Barack Obama. He is the only secretary of defense in U.S. history to be asked to remain in that office by a newly elected president.

Prior to his role leading the Defense Department, Gates was the Texas A&M president for four years. He served in the Central Intelligence Agency for nearly 27 years, including nine years at the National Security Council. He was CIA director from 1991-1993.

“As we think about the challenges across the world today in Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, North Korea and elsewhere, it will be a profound experience to have someone with us who has dealt with and planned for responses to these challenges and conflicts on a daily basis,” Union University President David S. Dockery said. “It will also be fascinating to have a person who will be able to share with us out of the rich experience of years in key leadership roles, including his service as secretary of defense for more than five years in two different administrations.

“Moreover, it will be helpful for all aspects of the Union constituency to hear from a person who has led one of the country’s great public universities, who has served in government and who also has been a leader in the private sector,” Dockery continued. “For all of us, it will truly be a genuine privilege to host Secretary Robert Gates for Union University's annual Scholarship Banquet in the fall of 2012.”

Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, has three times received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal and has three times received CIA’s highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.

He is the author of the memoir, “From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insiders Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War,” published in 1996.

A native of Kansas, Gates earned his bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary, his master’s degree in history from Indiana University and his doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University. He was recently installed as chancellor of the College of William and Mary.

The annual Scholarship Banquet has become one of the premier events in West Tennessee each year, and is Union’s primary fund raising event for its student scholarship fund. Previous speakers have included Tony Blair, George H.W. Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice, Mikhail Gorbachev, Laura Bush, Rudolph Giuliani and Colin Powell, among others.

All told, Union’s Scholarship Banquets have generated more than $5 million for student scholarships.

This year’s lead and premier sponsors include BancorpSouth, Keith and Beverly Absher, Roy and Martha White, First Bank, Jack and Zan Holmes, The Jackson Sun, Jack and Faye Porter, West Tennessee Healthcare, Northwestern Mutual/Rod and Amy Parker, Lou and Rosemary Oberndorf, Lloyd and Martha Hansen, Impact 360/John and Trudy (Cathy) White, Carl and Alice Kirkland, Harry and Beth Smith, Robert and Jane Alderson, Norm and Dale Hill, Gary and Susan Grisham and David and Lanese Dockery.

Sponsorship opportunities are available at all levels. For ticket information, including table sponsorships and individual balcony seating, contact Union’s Office of University Relations at (731) 661-5050.

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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