Robert Gates made a splash when he entered higher ed in 2002 and made major headlines again when he announced his planned exit. Few college presidents make news around the world, but Gates did when President George W. Bush announced that he wants Gates, leader of Texas A&M University, to replace Donald Rumsfeld as the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
Gates, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is known for being a close personal friend of the first President Bush and for his record in public service. He joined the CIA in 1966 and rose through the ranks to take the helm in 1991. He led the agency for two years. He also headed all foreign intelligence agencies and served as deputy security advisor to Bush.
In landing Gates as president, Texas A&M had a high-profile leader who was comfortable with an international mission and technological advancements, but not one with much higher ed experience. Faculty and administrators were skeptical when he came to campus. Until he become TAMU's president, Gates' only real gig in higher ed was as the TAMU interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service from 1999 to 2001.
Gates won over the naysayers with his humor and warm personal style. He also shook things up by launching a diversity initiative that targeted minority enrollment without using affirmative action and for ending a practice that made it easier for the children of alumni to attend TAMU. He started a hiring initiative to add faculty, too, and along the way announced a $1 billion fundraising campaign. -J.M.A.