Anne and John McDonnell receive Harris award

Annual award honors a couple’s dedication to improving St. Louis region

Anne and John McDonnell receive the 2017 Harris award
Anne (left) and John McDonnell flank Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and Carol Epstein, who represented the award selection committee, at the luncheon recognizing the McDonnells as the 2017 recipients of the Jane and Whitney Harris St. Louis Community Service Award. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

The St. Louis community has benefited greatly by the good works of the late Jane and Whitney Harris. When Jane died in 1999, she left a bequest to establish the annual Jane and Whitney Harris St. Louis Community Service Award, to honor a St. Louis husband-and-wife team whose lifelong efforts have contributed in an outstanding manner to the civic and cultural well-being of the region.

Philanthropists Anne and John McDonnell became the 18th couple awarded this special honor, given at a luncheon hosted by Washington University in St. Louis Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton at Harbison House on Feb. 15. The award provides for a $50,000 cash donation to be given to the couple’s chosen charities.

“Together, the McDonnells have had — and continue to have — a profound impact on the city they love and call home. They have enriched the lives of countless people through their dedicated leadership and support for global research and education; medical, bioscience and life sciences research; accessible and affordable housing; and innovation and entrepreneurship,” Wrighton said. “Anne and John McDonnell exemplify the kind of spirit of volunteerism and dedication to their hometown that makes St. Louis a great place to live.”

Throughout the past several decades, the McDonnells’ combined service, generosity and leadership have played a major role in creating and advancing a vibrant community.

John retired as chairman of the board of McDonnell Douglas Corp. after guiding its merger with Boeing Co. Most recently, he has been channeling his efforts into establishing St. Louis as a leading center for bioscience research and innovative technologies. He is the founding chair of BioSTL and BioGenerator; he also serves on the board of the Cortex Innovation Community, the city’s innovation hub and technology district. This interest is a natural extension of his longtime support of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and the Saint Louis Science Center.

Anne’s philanthropic focus involves efforts to revive Soulard, a historic city neighborhood in south St. Louis, and make it a vibrant place to live, work and play. Through BSB Development Company, a firm she owns and manages, Anne rehabs 19th-century row houses and turns them into modern, affordable apartment units. In addition, she has been actively supportive of the Southside Early Childhood Center, University City Child Center, and a number of elementary and secondary schools, both public and private.

Since 1976, when he joined the university’s Board of Trustees, John has served in a variety of pivotal roles. He served as chair of the board from 1999-2004 and was named a Life Trustee in 1999. He led the leadership phase of the successful $1.55 billion Campaign for Washington University and co-chaired the leadership phase of the current Leading Together campaign, and he currently chairs the campaign executive committee. He served as the founding chair of the Arts & Sciences National Council from 1986-1991 and remained as a member until 2006, when he joined the School of Engineering & Applied Science National Council.

Over the years, John and Anne McDonnell and their family have made significant contributions to advance Washington University’s stature as a world leader in research, education and service to society. These gifts include numerous endowed professorships, scholarships, buildings and academic programs. In 2005, John McDonnell provided the leadership gift to establish the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, a global research and education partnership comprising the university and 32 leading institutions around the world.

Among the special guests attending the Harris award event were Whitney Harris’ widow, Anna Harris; Jane and Whitney’s son, Eugene, and his wife, Lori; Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth; and members of the award selection committee, including Carol Epstein, who represented the committee for chair Michael Loynd, who could not be present. The committee is responsible for reviewing nominations and selecting the honorees. Whitney Harris died in 2010 at the age of 97.

The McDonnells’ award will support six local institutions: BioSTL, CityArchRiver Foundation, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Saint Louis Science Center, SouthSide Early Childhood Center and Washington University.

For more information on the award and how to submit a nomination, email or call 314-935-6298.

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