Memorial service celebrating the life of William H. Danforth to be held Oct. 2

William H. Danforth

A memorial service celebrating the life of Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth, MD, will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, in Graham Chapel at Washington University in St. Louis.

Danforth, who served as chancellor for 24 of his more than 65 years of service to Washington University, died Sept. 16, 2020, at his home in Ladue, Mo. He was 94.

A livestreamed broadcast of the service can be viewed in Brookings Quadrangle and Edison Theatre; all three locations are wheelchair accessible.

The livestream of the service, which will be recorded, will be available on the Remembering Bill Danforth website beginning at 11:30 a.m. Central Time Oct. 2.

Those planning to attend should check the COVID-19 website for current safety protocols in the days leading up to the memorial. All attending the service will be required to fill out the COVID-19 visitor self-screening tool before coming to campus and wear a mask while indoors.

The service will begin with a welcome by the Rev. Gary G. Braun, director of the Catholic Student Center at Washington University, and Chancellor Andrew D. Martin.

Those offering their reflections will be: Emeritus Trustee John F. McDonnell, retired chairman of the board of McDonnell Douglas Corp.; Andrew Bursky, AB, BS and MS ’78, vice chair of the Board of Trustees and chief executive officer of Atlas Holdings; Wayne Fields, the Lynn Cooper Harvey Distinguished Chair Emeritus in English in Arts & Sciences; P. Roy Vagelos, MD, former head of the Department of Biological Chemistry who co-founded with Danforth the Division of Biology & Biomedical Sciences in 1973; and Emeritus Trustee Robert L. Virgil, MBA ’60, DBA ’67, dean emeritus of Olin Business School.

Danforth’s brother, former U.S. Sen. John C. “Jack” Danforth, will present family reflections and offer a blessing.

A musical interlude will be performed by flutist Emily Angstreich, a Danforth Scholar and a senior majoring in psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, and pianist Hudson Lin, a senior majoring in cognitive neuroscience and minoring in French, both in Arts & Sciences.

Poet Dakotah Jennifer, a Danforth Scholar and a senior majoring in English in Arts & Sciences, will recite a poem she wrote, titled “At my very best.”

Soprano Kelly Daniel-Decker and pianist Sandra Geary, both teachers of applied music in the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences, will perform “On Eagle’s Wings” during the service. Daniel-Decker will sing the closing hymn, “The Prayer of St. Francis,” accompanied by organist Andrew Peters.

A reception will follow the service and be held in Holmes Lounge in Ridgley Hall, as well as outside in Brookings Quadrangle.

Parking is available in the Millbrook Garage, the Danforth University Center Garage and the East End Garage.

For more information or questions about the service, call 833-284-4698 or email

Led university into an era of remarkable accomplishment

William Danforth, who was also an emeritus trustee, led the university into an era of remarkable accomplishment in higher education, scholarship and clinical care.

As Chancellor Martin said at the time of his death, “Throughout his nearly seven decades of leadership and service, Bill forged a profound and indelible legacy that will remain in our community in perpetuity. 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.

“In addition to his innumerous accomplishments, we will also remember Bill for his passion for our mission, his relentless pursuit of excellence, and his abiding appreciation for and commitment to the people who make up our Washington University community,” Martin said. “Indeed, anyone who has ever been in the presence of Bill Danforth knows how special he was and how much he cared for this place and the people who have resided, studied and worked here.”

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