John F. McDonnell and the JSM Charitable Trust have made a $60 million gift commitment to Washington University in St. Louis, according to Stephen F. Brauer, chair of the Board of Trustees.
Most of the gift — $48 million — will create the McDonnell Academic Excellence Fund. Income from this unrestricted endowed fund will enable the university to respond to new academic opportunities and to launch new initiatives that build on its strengths and maximize its impact on the world.
The rest of the commitment is designated for two initiatives already announced by the university: a $2 million challenge grant to encourage new and increased annual scholarships as part of the “Opening Doors to the Future: The Scholarship Initiative for Washington University” and $10 million to support the McDonnell International Scholars Academy. The latter, established in 2005, is a global network of partner universities that provides scholars from those institutions the opportunity to earn a graduate degree and experience broad leadership exposure at the university.
This pledge constitutes one of the largest gifts made to the university and provides the chancellor considerable latitude in funding initiatives based on current assessments, short-term needs or opportunities that arise.
“This is a remarkable gift, and it will have a real impact in advancing Washington University’s strategic plan for excellence,” says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “I am very grateful to John McDonnell and the JSM Charitable Trust’s directors for their foresight and extraordinary generosity. I am particularly thankful to them for establishing the McDonnell Academic Excellence Fund, which will provide flexibility and generate much-needed resources in perpetuity.”
The income generated from the new fund could be used for a range of one-time needs, such as faculty appointments, new construction and renovations, scholarship and fellowship support, or new programs. At the chancellor’s discretion, the fund’s spendable income can also help build other endowments over time for any number of needs.
John McDonnell, his family, and associated foundations such as the JSM Charitable Trust have made some of the most significant contributions to Washington University’s rise as a major global research and teaching institution. Previous gifts have been predominantly designated toward professorships, scholarships and facilities.
At the root of McDonnell’s philanthropy is the desire to inspire others to support a great institution. For this gift, however, he adds another message — flexibility.
“By establishing this endowment, my goal is to allow the university’s leadership to access resources necessary to develop new initiatives and take advantage of special opportunities to strengthen Washington University and its value to society,” McDonnell says.
Brauer believes that McDonnell’s gift will inspire others to support the university’s teaching and research endeavors in the broadest terms.
“John McDonnell’s exceptional and visionary gift is an inspiration to us all — parents, alumni, friends and trustees alike. It comes at a time when we are defining and expanding our national and global initiatives, and it is a major step forward in advancing Washington University’s vision for its future as a world leader in research, education and service to society,” Brauer says.
“Considering the sheer number of gifts over the years from individual McDonnell family members, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, McDonnell Douglas Corp., the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation Foundation, and the JSM Charitable Trust, their support has had a transformative effect on Washington University, and their incredible generosity has been felt by every segment of the campus community,” Wrighton says. “This new gift adds another significant dimension to their collective contributions.”
Among the many McDonnell family and foundation gifts, professorships stand out as major contributions to the advancement of research and education.
Today there are more than 10 endowed professorships, among them: three James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professorships, given in 1997, that support five broad areas: physics, complex systems, and space and earth sciences; engineering and applied sciences; international affairs and economics; human cognition; and genetics.
In 2003, John McDonnell and the JSM Charitable Trust established seven additional professorships: three supporting the Center for Materials Innovation and four supporting the School of Medicine’s broad-based research initiative, BioMed 21. McDonnell chose to name these professorships after the men and women who set the university’s course for greatness, such as the Nobel Laureates Arthur Holly Compton and Carl and Gerty Cori.
Several buildings and a center also bear the family name: The McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences and McDonnell Hall are located on the Danforth Campus; the McDonnell Medical Sciences Building and the McDonnell Pediatric Research Building are on the Medical Campus.
McDonnell’s support extends to service as well as giving. His long and distinguished tenure on the Board of Trustees began in 1976. Since then, he has served in many leadership positions, including chair and his current role as vice chair. He is now a Life Trustee.
He also was founding chair of the Arts & Sciences National Council and now serves on the School of Engineering & Applied Science’s National Council. He is a founding member of the university’s International Advisory Council for Asia and serves on the advisory committee for the McDonnell International Scholars Academy.
He and his wife, Anne, a Washington University graduate, are life members of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society and sustaining charter members of the society’s Danforth Circle.
McDonnell followed in the footsteps of his father, James, as an aerospace engineer. After receiving a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Princeton University, he joined McDonnell Douglas in 1962. He also took graduate-level classes at the university’s Olin Business School.
He led the company through the early 1990s, retiring in 1997 as chairman of the board, after overseeing its merger with The Boeing Co. to create the world’s largest aerospace company. McDonnell continues as a member of the Board of Directors of The Boeing Co.
Washington University recognized his achievements with an honorary degree in 2006. He has been recognized professionally with membership in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
He is a member of the presidents’ circle of the National Academies, which is composed of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council.