PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Outgoing US defense secretary Robert Gates was named today as the 2011 recipient of the Philadelphia Liberty Medal.

The announcement was made this morning at a short ceremony at the National Constitution Center, on Independence Mall.

Gates will receive the Liberty Medal in a public ceremony at the National Constitution Center on Thursday, September 22nd.

The selection committee noted Gates’ “five decades of distinguished service” as a “widely respected leader” who has fulfilled a legacy of defending freedom, promoting effective diplomacy, and supporting American troops around the world.

Hear the Liberty Medal announcement in this CBS Philly “In The Raw” podcast…

Mayor Michael Nutter called it the perfect choice.

“When you look at his record, when you look at his service, he is a consummate professional, he is the ultimate public servant,” the mayor told KYW Newsradio.

Gates, who is set to retire on June 30th, is the only defense secretary in US history to have served presidents of more than one political party — George W. Bush and Barack Obama.   He also served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency (including as director under George H. Bush) and the National Security Council.

Reported by Karin Phillips, KYW Newsradio 1060