Before Robert Gates heads to Washington, he sent a few Aggies on the next leg of their life's journey.
During a pair of ceremonies Friday and for one Saturday morning, Texas A&M's president will hand out more than 3,500 diplomas to Aggies. Presiding over the 37th, 38th and 39th commencements of his presidency are his last acts before he becomes the Secretary of Defense.
His swearing-in happens Monday in Washington.
Friday's graduates were all-too-aware of the significance of Gates officiating at their graduation.
"I'm very honored, especially to have somebody in his ranking and somebody at his level is just amazing," said graduate Jaime Benson, "and the fact that we're the last class, it's very honorable."
"Like all of you, this very special place has changed my life, and the memories of my years at Texas A&M are forever etched in my mind and locked in my heart," Gates told the graduates at the end of the ceremony. "I end my time here with a single parting admonition to each of you: no matter what you do or achieve, your life will be neither truly successful nor truly complete unless it includes significant service to others. Good luck, Godspeed, and gig 'em."