A Lifetime of Giving and Beyond: The Legacy of Bill Danforth

Throughout his remarkable life, Dr. William H. Danforth dreamed big. As his friend Dr. Roy Vagelos remarked, “He didn’t want to mess around with small things.” Bill was determined to tackle the related challenges of hunger and environmental sustainability. He dedicated nearly 25 years of his life to doing so at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

As we celebrate Bill’s role in the creation and success of the Danforth Center, we have even more to celebrate: his lasting legacy. Bill was one of those rare individuals who was just as practical as he was visionary. He understood the challenges that stood in the way of progress and believed in the importance of protecting an investment through endowment.

Up until the end of his life, Bill gave generously to perpetuate the work in motion at the Danforth Center. Along with his brother, Senator Jack Danforth, he directed the final funds of the Danforth Foundation to the Plant Science Center. He made regular gifts to the Center each year and was also the founding member of what we now call the WHD Legacy Society in his honor, pledging a bequest gift to the Center.

Not only did Bill visualize, found, lead, and nurture the Danforth Center during his life, but with his passing, he left a very significant legacy. It is a remarkable gift that enables the Center to deliver on much of its strategic priorities. It enables more fellowships for trainees, new investments in technology facilities, further development of a field research site, and targeted research capacity at the nexus of agriculture and the environment. It also provides funding for innovative research with commercial applications, and programs to develop future scientists.

We can't relax. The opportunities are greater than ever. Our job is getting more, rather than less, challenging, but I guess that's the way life is at its best. The next mountain is harder to climb.

-Dr. William H. Danforth

This act reinforces what we already knew about Bill’s character and speaks to his profound belief in the purpose of this Center and his confidence in the people who make it great. It is a gift that comes at a critical point in time, when needs to feed the world, address environmental challenges, and strengthen St. Louis as a bioscience powerhouse, have never been greater.

Bill placed the responsibility to act in our hands. The need is greater than ever and thanks to Bill, we can reach our goals. That is, if we choose to join him.