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Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates to Replace Madeleine Albright as Featured Speaker at Fall President’s Leadership Forum

September 17, 2021

Whitworth University is pleased to announce Secretary of Defense (2006-2011) Robert M. Gates will be the featured speaker at the fall President’s Leadership Forum on Sept. 29, 2021, from 7:30-9 a.m. at the Spokane Convention Center.

Gates has agreed to replace former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who had to cancel her appearance this week due to circumstances unrelated to any personal illness or local COVID-19 concerns. Registration will remain open until Sept. 24.

“We are thrilled that Secretary Gates will be our guest for the President’s Leadership Forum,” says Whitworth Interim President Scott McQuilkin. “Our goal for this particular event has been to focus on global affairs and the challenges facing the world. With his extensive experience, service to our country, and engagement in current issues, Secretary Gates will provide an expert’s perspective from which we will no doubt benefit.”

Gates was appointed as secretary of defense by President George W. Bush in 2006 and continued to serve in that role under President Barack Obama until 2011. Gates is the only secretary of defense in U.S. history to have been asked to remain in office by a newly elected president. Gates served eight U.S. presidents during his career in public service. He was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, by Obama during Gates’ retirement ceremony in 2011.

Before becoming secretary of defense, Gates was the president of Texas A&M University, the nation’s seventh largest university. Prior to assuming the presidency, he served as interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M from 1999 to 2001.

Gates joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966 and served nearly 27 years as an intelligence professional. He is the only career officer in the CIA’s history to have risen from entry-level employee to director.

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

In 2007, he was named one of Time magazine’s most influential people. The following year, he was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report.

Gates is the author of four books, Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World, published in 2020; A Passion For Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service (2016); Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War (2014); and From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War (1996).

Until becoming secretary of defense, Gates served as Chairman of the Independent Trustees of The Fidelity Funds, the nation’s largest mutual fund company, and served on the board of directors of NACCO Industries Inc., Brinker International Inc. and Parker Drilling Company Inc.

He has also served on the board of directors and executive committee of the American Council on Education and was the president of the National Eagle Scout Association.

A native of Kansas, Gates received his bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary, master’s degree in history from Indiana University, and doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.

The Whitworth President’s Leadership Forum draws key national leaders to the Inland Northwest to provide wisdom and insight on a variety of contemporary issues. For more information, please click here

Please note: The Spokane Convention Center requires all attendees to wear a mask during the event except when dining and to maintain social distancing when possible.

About Whitworth University: 

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of more than 3,000 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Emilee Bosh, interim director of university events, Whitworth University, (509) 777-3449 or

Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or