Remembering former chancellor and dean William H. Danforth, MD

A note from Valerie Ratts, MD, Associate Dean for Admissions and Professor

As you consider Washington University School of Medicine, I would like to share some of its history with you by giving you a glimpse into the remarkable life of a very humble but influential physician who graced our campus here for years—William H. Danforth, MD (1926-2020). A St. Louisan by birth, Dr. Danforth completed residencies in medicine and pediatrics at Barnes and St. Louis Children’s Hospitals and joined the Washington University School of Medicine faculty in 1957 as a cardiologist. At age 39, he was appointed vice chancellor for medical affairs and president (that is, dean) of Washington University Medical Center. Six years later, in 1971, he was named the 13th chancellor of the university, a title he held until 1995. His unique character is the focus of a short video that I think you will find inspirational; you can read a full obituary and profile at the SOURCE, a WashU publication.

You may also enjoy an additional story and video produced by the Donald Danforth Center Plant Science Center, which he founded in 1998 and where he served as chairman until 2013. The Danforth Plant Science Center was created in large part due to Chancellor Danforth’s deep concern about solving the problem of hunger; it may be one of his most long lasting legacies.

We all have our personal heroes. Dr. Danforth was one of mine.


Valerie S. Ratts, MD