Four New Directors Elected to Danforth Center Board

ST. LOUIS, MO, February 15, 2023The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center welcomes four new directors to its Board in 2023. The Danforth Center Board serves oversight, stewardship, and accountability functions as the Center delivers on its mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Directors share valuable insights and best practices from their own organizations and advocate for the Danforth Center in the community. Danforth Center directors are elected to four-year terms.

“Our Board of Directors is essential to the success of our work at the Danforth Center,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Carrington. “Each incoming director brings unique experience, talent, and leadership to the Board. We look forward to working with them.”

Lisa Ainsworth, PhD

Ainsworth is a Research Leader, Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit, in the Agricultural Research Service, USDA. She is also Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She received her BS in Biology at UCLA and PhD in Crop Sciences from UIUC. Her research addresses crop responses to global atmospheric change and potential solutions to mitigate climate change through agriculture. She has long studied photosynthetic responses of plants to climate change, and her interdisciplinary research employs genomic, metabolomic, and biochemical tools. In 2019, she was awarded the National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agricultural Sciences and was an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2020.

Lisa Ainsworth, PhD, Professor of Plant Biology, USDA-ARS, Photosynthesis Research Unit, University of Illinois

Christopher B. Danforth

Danforth is a managing director at Yield Lab, an organization supporting agtech startup companies that work to sustainably increase the world’s food supply. He is also the owner, president, and chairman of Kennelwood Pet Resorts. A longtime volunteer at the Danforth Center, he has served on organizing committees of past Danforth Center Plantasia galas. Danforth is the son of Donald Danforth, Jr., and Carolyn Danforth and the nephew of Dr. William H. Danforth, founder of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

Christopher B. Danforth, Managing Director at Yield Lab and President, Kennelwood Pet Resort

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Joyner-Kersee is a six-time Olympic medalist and one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. She has also been a tireless community leader, advocating for children’s education, health issues, racial equality, social reform, and women’s rights. In 1988, she established the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation to provide youth, adults, and families with opportunities and resources to improve their quality of life through athletics, academic, after-school, and summer programs. In 2000, the Foundation built the Jackie-Joyner Kersee Center on a 37-acre site in East St. Louis, serving youth through education and athletics. With the Danforth Center and University of Illinois as partners, she is providing opportunities for youth at the new Jackie Joyner-Kersee Food, Agriculture, and Nutrition (JJK-FAN) Innovation Center in East St. Louis.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympian; Founder & CEO, Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation

William L. Polk, Jr.

Polk is the managing partner of Egis Capital Partners, a private equity firm focused on middle-market buyout and late-stage growth investments in the security, public safety, and homeland defense sectors. Polk began his career at the multinational lending group at Chemical Bank in New York before becoming a co-founder and president of SLP Capital, a specialty finance company focused on security industry lending. In 2004, SLP Capital was acquired by CapitalSource, where Polk was the managing director of their security lending group and served on the executive committee. He went on to serve as the managing director of the security, defense, and technology finance practice at Capital One, before transitioning to his current position at Egis Capital Partners. Polk earned a BA from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Harvard University.

William L. Polk, Jr., Managing Partner, Egis Capital Partners

About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education, and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and through charitable contributions from individuals, companies, and foundations. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter

For more information contact: Karla Roeber, VP Public and Government Affairs,, (314) 406-4287.