John F. McDonnell, Chairman of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center's Board of Directors, retired as Chairman of the Board of McDonnell Douglas Corporation in 1997 after a more than 35-year career at the company. He was elected chairman and chief executive officer of McDonnell Douglas Corporation in 1988, a position he held until September 1994. From then until his retirement at the time of the merger with Boeing, he was chairman of the Board. 

McDonnell led the company successfully through the early 1990's when the U.S. defense budget and the aerospace markets were shrinking dramatically. In the face of a rapidly consolidating aerospace industry, he oversaw the merger of McDonnell Douglas with Boeing to create the world's largest, broadest, and strongest aerospace company. He retired from the Boeing board of directors in 2012.

For the past 12 years, John McDonnell has been actively involved in establishing an entrepreneurial ecosystem in St. Louis to enable start-up companies to commercialize life science research breakthroughs. He is the founding chairman of BioSTL and of the BioGenerator, nonprofits which provide funding and support to researchers, entrepreneurs, and young companies in the life sciences in St. Louis.

McDonnell has also served on numerous civic boards and as chairman of the boards of Washington University in St. Louis, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and the Saint Louis Science Center. He also currently serves as Vice-Chairman of Washington University in St. Louis.

McDonnell earned bachelor's and master's degrees in aeronautical engineering from Princeton University.