Danforth Scholars Program

The Danforth Scholars program honors students with a passion for helping others.

We are looking for students who have demonstrated leadership in service and a strong commitment to community. Danforth Scholars are also known for their leadership in service, intellectual and creative acuity, a commitment to diversity and kindness.

Named in honor of William H. and Elizabeth Gray Danforth, the chancellor and first lady of Washington University from 1971 to 1995, this program pays tribute to this couple’s exemplary leadership and service. This scholarship provides full or partial tuition.

We are proud to announce that 14 members of our incoming Class of 2026 are Danforth Scholars. These outstanding scholars were selected from nearly 8,000 applications.

William H. and Elizabeth Gray Danforth

As the former chancellor and first lady of Washington University, the Danforths inspired countless others with their values, character and commitment.

Dr. Danforth spent 20 years at the university as a medical resident, faculty member, and then vice chancellor for medical affairs before he began serving as our 13th chancellor in 1971. When he retired 24 years later, he was credited with leading the effort that molded us into one of the nation’s finest teaching and research institutions. Following his retirement as chancellor, Dr. Danforth served as chairman of the Board of Trustees for four years and continues to serve as our chancellor emeritus.

The late Mrs. Danforth actively supported her husband in his long career – engaging everyone with her warmth, intelligence and compassion. Her name is linked to endeavors that reflect her exceptional spirit and commitment.

The Danforths devoted countless hours to building our community and maintaining ties with our students and alumni. But their reach has extended well beyond the university. Dr. Danforth continued to be one of St. Louis’ most highly regarded public citizens and a tireless champion of the community until his passing in September 2021.

The Four Danforth Pillars


Danforth Scholars are committed, dedicated leaders with a passion for service.  They actively invest in our community of scholars, hone their leadership skills, and eventually assume the mantle of leadership in the larger community of Washington University and beyond.


Danforth Scholars are lifelong learners.  They not only excel academically but think creatively and perceptively.  They are profoundly curious, expansive and multi-perspectival.  Danforth Scholars enjoy and invite an ever-broadening and deepening understanding of the world, and the science and art of living.


Our community is enriched by the diversity of our scholars.  We welcome international students and students with diverse backgrounds.  We embrace multiculturalism, honor difference, and benefit from the free and open expression of convergent and divergent points of view.


The strength of our community abides in our empathic and caring way of being with each other.  This ethic of kindness pervades and informs all that we do, engendering safety and trust within our community.  Kindness and grace shape a respectful and welcoming space in which Danforth Scholars enjoy a sense of belonging, are inspired to give effort to our program, and work for the greater good.

Program Events

Weekly Seminar

All first-year students will be required to attend a weekly Danforth Seminar on Mondays from 5:30–6:30 p.m. in a classroom in the Office of Scholar Programs. The weekly seminar is the initial part of a four-year experience under the George and Carol Bauer Leaders Academy.

Led by the Danforth Scholars Program Director, Sean Spinks, this course will cover selected relevant topics including leadership, civic engagement, self-awareness and college student development. It is an interactive seminar in which each student will participate in dialogue, reflection and related activities. There will be opportunities to meet and hear from various leaders in the WashU community and to get to know them by name and story. The knowledge gained is designed to contribute to academic success, personal development, and a more rewarding social and academic experience over the course of college and beyond. This is a pass/fail course and students will earn one credit each semester.

George and Carol Bauer Leaders Academy

Winter Retreat

The first Saturday after classes begin spring semester, we will take time for all Danforth Scholars to self-reflect and discuss topics related character, personal impact, and leading a virtuous life.  We also reflect on personal successes and opportunities for growth as scholars prepare for the upcoming semester.

Camp Miniwanca

Camp Miniwanca students on beachDuring Bear Beginnings, incoming Danforth Scholars will participate in an immersive experience with one another. Scholars will travel together to American Youth Foundation’s Camp Miniwanca in Shelby, Michigan. They will spend three days at the camp participating in developmental programs designed to “enable individuals to discover their personal best, to seek balance in mental, physical, social and spiritual living and to make a positive difference in their communities and the world.” The Program Directors, along with upperclass Danforth Scholars and Camp Miniwanca staff, will serve as chaperones during the trip.

Health History and Acknowledgement and Assumption of Risk Form

Packing List

Living with Intentionality: Civic Engagement and Service Learning

Students pose on a pile of mulchAll Danforth Scholars are encouraged to participate in civic engagement and service learning opportunities. The purpose behind these opportunities is to incorporate one’s values into their daily lives and to determine how they can make a principled difference in their communities.  Past groups have traveled to Georgia and Alabama to participate in Habitat for Humanity builds and most recently, scholars have focused their efforts on the St. Louis community, working with Kingdom House to help economically disadvantaged persons achieve economic independence, self-sufficiency and a path out of poverty.

Summer Community Internship Program

The George and Carol Bauer St. Louis Summer Community Internship program supports students who spend a summer in St. Louis working in a non-profit or on a community service project, a startup business or, pending approval from the program director, create their own leadership or career development project. Undergraduate Danforth scholars can apply for an award, up to $5,000.

Applications will be accepted from January 1 through April 1 each year. Students are encouraged to have secured a position before applying but those who are actively looking may also begin the application process.  If you need assistance in finding an internship or developing a project, or have any questions, please be in touch with the director, Sean Spinks.

Apply for Summer Community Internship Program

Danforth Anniversary

Danforth Scholars AnniversaryThe Danforth 20th Anniversary was held on October 1, 2021 and brought together over 100 students, alumni and friends of the program.

View livestream of Danforth 20th Anniversary.




In order to be considered for the Danforth scholarship, students must complete an application for admission to Washington University in St. Louis and a separate Danforth Scholars Application. We are looking for students who have demonstrated not only outstanding academic performance, but also involvement in activities that illustrate exceptional commitment to community service, high moral character and similar qualities that exemplify the Danforths’ legacy here.

The Danforth Scholars Committee will review applications and invite selected finalists to participate in a series of virtual events to be held in early spring.  To be considered for the scholarship, finalists must make themselves available for an interview in March.

Learn more about applying


Danforth Newsletter-Fall 2021

Danforth Newsletter-Fall 2020

Danforth Newsletter-Fall 2019

Danforth Newsletter-Fall 2018

Contact Info

Office of Scholar Programs
Washington University in St. Louis
CB 1131
One Brookings Dr.
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

Sean Spinks
Director, Danforth Scholars Program
Contact Sean by email

Kirsten Smith
Assistant Director, Office of Scholar Programs
Contact Kirsten by email


Women’s Building, Suite 005


Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Alumni Engagement

Alumni in Residence

Once a semester, we bring in a Danforth Scholar alum for facilitated discussion to help connect current scholars with alumni of the program who are excelling in their careers and giving back to their communities.

If you are a Danforth alum and interested in participating, or if you have any questions, please contact the program Director, Sean Spinks.

Connect with current students and other alums, and stay informed about what’s happening in our community through the Office of Scholar Programs Scholar network on Hivebrite.