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Robert P Gates

Class of 1938

Awarded in 1988

“Lay preaching and choir singing got the best of me” are the words you use to describe your exchange of a business suit for a clerical collar. Although the Christian ministry was your first choice for a calling, circumstances beyond your control made immediate post-college schooling impossible. For nearly two decades, you embarked upon a wide range of successful business experiences from coast to coast: in transportation you first managed Peoria’s intercity Black Hawk Bus Lines, developing it into Illinios’ largest independent carrier system, then operated 14 city lines in four states; in advertising, you had a bus-stop bench enterprise; in other commercial ventures, you ran a chain of soft ice cream stores and promoted patented machinery to smooth rough asphalt streets. Royalties collected and saved over the years finally permitted you to enroll at San Francisco Theological Seminary and serve as chaplain to murderers, thieves and “con” men at San Quentin Prison before receiving a master’s of divinity degree in 1957. You then accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church of Peoria, which earlier had been served by your later brother Edward, Beloit College Class of 1943, and remained as its pastor for the next 25 years. Recognized as a prominent counselor, campus and corporation educator, retreat leader, juvenile-court adviser, Holy Land and European tour director, union-management dispute referee and judge, and Shrine of North America imperial chaplain, you have received honorary degrees from John F. Kennedy College and Dubuque University and a Freedoms Foundation Sermon Award; you also serve as a trustee of Blackburn College and Family House. Beloit College proudly recognizes your diversified achievements and your demonstration of how good, full and useful one’s life can be by awarding you this Distinguished Service Citation as your class gathers again on campus to celebrate its 50th Reunion.