McDonnell, JSM Charitable Trust endow four professorships

John F. McDonnell and the JSM Charitable Trust have awarded the School of Medicine $6 million to endow four new professorships at the medical school in conjunction with the BioMed 21 initiative.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and Larry J. Shapiro, M.D., executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the medical school, announced the gift.

“Members of the McDonnell family, personally and through the James S. McDonnell Foundation and the JSM Charitable Trust, have been extremely supportive of Washington University for many years,” Wrighton said. “Their incredible generosity continues to play a critical role in the advancement of education and research at the University.”

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John McDonnell, the youngest son of honored aerospace pioneer James S. McDonnell, is the chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees and has served on the board since 1976. The McDonnell family and the JSM Charitable Trust have a deep interest in scientific research, and their support of the University over the years has been extraordinarily generous.

“I can’t imagine a more appropriate gift than endowing professorships to support the recruitment of new faculty members who will apply genetics to improve our quality of life,” John McDonnell said. “With initiatives like BioMed 21 and the resourcefulness and insight of Washington University’s renowned faculty members, before long there should be new therapies that prevent the suffering associated with a host of diseases.”

John McDonnell earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from Princeton University. He also is an alumnus of the Olin School of Business.

Like his father, John McDonnell pursued a career in aerospace and in 1988 became chairman of the board and chief executive officer of McDonnell Douglas Corp. He continued to serve as chairman through the merger with The Boeing Co. and now serves on Boeing’s board of directors.

He is also on the board of directors of Zoltek Companies Inc., the St. Louis Science Center, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, BJC Healthcare and Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

He and his wife, Anne, have five children.

The late James S. McDonnell is one of America’s most honored aerospace pioneers. He first learned to fly in the Army Air Service, where he served as a second lieutenant between earning a bachelor’s degree with honors in physics from Princeton in 1921 and a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1925.

After working in many of the small but numerous aircraft plants of that era, in 1939 McDonnell founded his own company, McDonnell Aircraft Corp. in St. Louis.

The company grew from its beginnings at Lambert Field into one of the world’s largest aerospace companies. In 1967, the company merged with Douglas Aircraft, and in 1997 McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing, forming the world’s largest aerospace company.

Its Integrated Defense Systems group — representing more than one-half of Boeing’s business — is headquartered in St. Louis.

In addition to leading his company’s many achievements, including building the first jet aircraft to operate from a U.S. carrier and developing America’s first manned spacecraft, McDonnell was a longtime supporter of the United Nations and served as chairman of the U.N. Association of the United States of America.

In 1950, he established the McDonnell Foundation to “improve the quality of life.” Today, renamed the James S. McDonnell Foundation, it abides by that mission by contributing to generations of new knowledge through its support of research and scholarship.

McDonnell established his first University professorship in the space sciences in 1964 and established the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences in 1975. The James S. McDonnell Foundation’s continued support of programs at the University reflects James S. McDonnell’s main interests, which include genetics and human cognition.

The incredible generosity of the McDonnell family, the James S. McDonnell Foundation and the JSM Charitable Trust, which was established to match family members’ gifts, has provided the School of Medicine with the James S. McDonnell Department of Genetics, the James S. McDonnell Professor of Genetics, the James S. McDonnell Professor of Molecular Genetics, the McDonnell Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, the McDonnell Center for Higher Brain Functioning, the McDonnell Center for Cellular Molecular Neurobiology, the James S. McDonnell Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience and the McDonnell Pediatric Research Building.

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