O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — William Danforth, a member of a prominent St. Louis family and the leader who oversaw Washington University’s rise to national prominence during his 24-year career as chancellor, has died. He was 94.
Washington University confirmed that Danforth died Wednesday at his home in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue, Missouri. No cause of death was released.
Danforth was the older brother of John Danforth, who served three terms as a Republican senator, and later served as ambassador to the United Nations. His late brother, Donald, served as president of Ralston Purina, the company founded by the brothers’ grandfather.
William Danforth was born in 1926. Opting out of a career with the family company, Danforth chose a medical career, earning a medical degree from Harvard.
After serving two years in the Korean War, Danforth and his wife, Elizabeth, returned to St. Louis, where he became an instructor at Washington University, eventually moving up to president of the medical school, vice chancellor and, in 1971, chancellor. He held the post until retiring in 1995.
The university’s reputation blossomed during his tenure and became recognized as one of the nation’s leaders in higher education. Faculty members won 10 Nobel prizes and two Pulitzer Prizes during Danforth’s tenure. Two faculty members served as poet laureates.
Washington University Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said in a statement that Danforth “forged a profound and indelible legacy” at the university.
“Most notably, we will remember Bill for taking the university from what was once known as a commuter campus to the world-renowned institution it is today, including raising the prominence of the School of Medicine — Bill’s academic ‘home’ and the place where his leadership and service at Washington University began,” Martin said.
Republican Sen. Roy Blunt called Danforth a “visionary leader” who “led Washington University to the top tier of higher education.”
A private funeral is planned. The university said it will hold a memorial service at a later date.