United States Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates was the keynote speaker at the 2007 Commencement ceremony held in W&M Hall. He will begin his term as chancellor of the College of William and Mary Feb. 3.

Gates, who was named as the next chancellor in September 2011, will be installed during the Charter Day ceremony, for which he is also the keynote speaker. According to William and Mary, the Charter Day ceremony celebrates the College’s establishment through the Royal Charter from King William III and Queen Mary II of England in 1693.

Gates graduated from William and Mary in 1965 and also holds an honorary doctorate degree. He is the first alumnus to serve as chancellor in the modern era, university president Taylor Reveley said.

According to William and Mary, the chancellor plays a large role in campus life by participating in ceremonies and other events, as well as meeting with students and members of the campus community.

In addition to the school’s welcome celebrations, CNN’s John King interviewed Gates during a live broadcast of “John King, USA” on the William and Mary campus Jan. 31.

Gates succeeds retired U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has served as chancellor since 2005.

“Bob Gates has been an exemplar of selfless service to his country and life-long commitment to his alma mater,” Reveley said in a news release. “As Chancellor, he will succeed another magnificent American who is also a cherished member of our community.”