Danforth to Present Veryl L. Riddle Distinguished History Lecture Oct. 25



Oct. 22, 2007 – Dr. William H. Danforth, chancellor emeritus of Washington University in St. Louis, will present the Seventh Annual Veryl L. Riddle Distinguished History Lecture at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 25, in Glenn Auditorium of Dempster Hall at Southeast Missouri State University.

The topic of the lecture will be “The Miracles of Agriculture History.”

The Danforth name has long been connected with agriculture. Danforth is the grandson of William H. Danforth, the patriarch of the family, long-time resident of Charleston, Mo., and founder of the Ralston-Purina Corporation and the Danforth Foundation. The senior William H. Danforth moved from his home at 105 Danforth St. in Charleston to St. Louis and on Christmas Eve, 1892, opened a small feed store on Washington Avenue. Within a year, the business was capitalized at $12,000.

In 1898, Danforth launched a cracked-wheat cereal. In 1902, he introduced the red and white checkerboard symbol, and during World War I, when Danforth heard American soldiers referring to their meals as “chow,” he began calling his animal feeds, “animal chow.” In 1921, Danforth revolutionized the feed business with the introduction of pelletized animal feeds. In 2001, mergers resulted in the creation of the Nestle Purina PetCare Company, one of America’s largest corporate enterprises.

The Danforth Foundation, established in 1927, supported individuals throughout the United States in furthering their education. More recently, the Foundation has directed its philanthropy to the St. Louis region to help revitalize the region and make it one of the top metropolitan areas in the United States. The Foundation has provided almost $400 million to support Washington University.

The Danforth Plant Science Center, built in St. Louis in 1998, has evolved into a major force in cereals and pet food, and is the world’s premier research center dedicated to plant science.

John (Jack) C. Danforth, now a partner at the Bryan Cave law firm in St. Louis, served eight years as attorney general of Missouri and 18 years as a U.S. Senator, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and as the president’s special envoy to the Sudan.

Dr. William H. Danforth served in the U.S. Navy from 1944-1945, then enrolled at Princeton where he graduated in 1947. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1951, interned at Barnes Hospital, and returned to the U.S. Navy as a physician from 1952 to 1954. In 1957, Dr. Danforth began his long and productive relationship with Washington University, advancing from the rank of instructor of medicine to professor of medicine, and from 1971 to 1995 as chancellor of the university.

Dr. Danforth’s 24 year tenure as chancellor of Washington University, one of the longest tenures of any university chancellor or president of the nation, resulted in the transition of the university from a local college to an internationally recognized teaching and research-intensive university. As chancellor, Dr. Danforth was able to establish 70 endowed professorships, for a total of 110 on the campus; developed the University’s endowment to the seventh largest for any university in the nation; constructed dozens of new buildings; tripled the number of endowed scholarships; and saw more than 60,000 students graduate from the institution, and faculty receive 10 Nobel Prizes and two Pulitzer Prizes.

On Sept. 17, 2006, the Washington University “Hilltop Campus,” was renamed the Danforth Campus as “a tribute to a man, a family and a foundation.”

While his careers as physician and educator are amazingly successful, Dr. Danforth has maintained an interest in agriculture, where the Danforth name first achieved success. He recently published an article in the journal, Science, promoting the creation of a National Institute of Food and Agriculture within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The presentation is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr, Frank Nickell, director of the Center for Regional History, at (573) 651-2555.