John McDonnell has been elected the chairman of the board of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. This follows McDonnell’s service as a trustee since 2000 and vice chair since 2007. Located in St. Louis, Missouri, the Danforth Center seeks sustainable solutions to global challenges such as crop improvement to address hunger and malnutrition, and biofuels to provide a source of renewable energy.

McDonnell has been actively supportive of start-up companies to commercialize life science research breakthroughs in the St. Louis area. He is the founding chairman of the BioSTL Coalition, originally known as the Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences and renamed in 2011. The Coalition established the BioGenerator in 2003 to work closely with universities, scientists, entrepreneurs and investors. Through their efforts 25 new seed and pre-seed stage start-ups have been founded to date.

In 1997 McDonnell retired as chair of the McDonnell Douglas Corporation and as director of Boeing Company in 2012. He earned a BSE in 1960 and a MSE in 1962, both in aeronautical engineering from Princeton.