Gates was nominated by Republican president George W. Bush as Secretary of Defense two years after the 2004 election, replacing Donald Rumsfeld. He was confirmed with bipartisan support. In a 2007 profile written by former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Time named Gates one of the year's most influential people. In 2008, Gates was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report. He continued to serve as Secretary of Defense in President Barack Obama's administration. He retired in 2011. "He'll be remembered for making us aware of the danger of over-reliance on military intervention as an instrument of American foreign policy," said former senator David L. Boren. Gates was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, by President Obama during his retirement ceremony.
Gates then received a scholarship to attend the College of William & Mary, graduating in 1965 with a B.A. in history. At William & Mary, Gates was an active member and president of the Alpha Phi Omega (national service fraternity) chapter and the Young Republicans; he was also the business manager for the William and Mary Review, a literary and art magazine. At his William & Mary graduation ceremony, Gates received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award naming him the graduate who "has made the greatest contribution to his fellow man".
Gates, along with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other Republican former foreign policy officials, recommended to incoming president Donald Trump that Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson be considered for the Trump Administration as Secretary of State. 2b1af7f3a8