William Henry Danforth

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William Henry Danforth II (born 1926) is a retired physician, professor of medicine, and academic administrator. He was chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis from 1971 until 1995. He is the grandson of Ralston-Purina founder and St. Louis businessman William H. Danforth, and the brother of former U.S. Senator John Danforth.

William Danforth was born and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended St. Louis Country Day School, Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, and then transferred to Princeton University, graduating in 1947. After attending Harvard Medical School and interning at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, he served as a physician in the Navy during the Korean War. Danforth returned to St. Louis and joined the medical faculty of Washington University in 1957 as a cardiologist. This continued a connection to the University started by his grandfather, who had attended the University's Manual Arts School. He became Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs before being named Washington University's 13th Chancellor in 1971, replacing Thomas H. Eliot.

During his 24 years at the helm of the University, he is credited with bringing the University to national stature, completing several major capital campaigns, tripling the number of scholarships, increasing the endowment by an order of magnitude and establishing 70 endowed faculty chairs. Despite a rough start during the student unrest of the late 1960s and 1970s he was much loved by students and was commonly referred to as "Uncle Bill" or "Chan Dan".[1] Chancellor Danforth maintained a clear presence during his entire tenure at Washington University and was frequently seen walking the grounds and talking with students.

After retirement in 1995, as one of the longest serving chancellors in the country, he continues to be involved in the University, and has served as the Chair of the Board of Trustees and was named Chancellor Emeritus in 1999.

In 2006 the main "Hilltop" Campus of the University was named the Danforth Campus in recognition of the Danforth family's contributions to the University. In 2013, Danforth received The St. Louis Award.[2]

Danforth founded the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in 1998 and is currently Founding Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Center.[3]

A scholarship has been named after Danforth and his late wife, Elizabeth (known as Ibby); it is awarded annually to "the Washington University student who embraces high ideals, whose life choices are guided by personal integrity, selflessness, a commitment to community, and a dedication to leadership and academic excellence."[4]


  1. ^ Student Life Newspaper the Independent Newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis, 1 October 2007.
  2. ^ STL Beacon 8 January 2013.
  3. ^ http://www.danforthcenter.org/default.asp
  4. ^ The Danforth Scholars Program at Washington University in St. Louis, accessed 21 July 2010.

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