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 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.

Since the program’s inception in 1998, more than 45,000 students have been nominated; from thousands of high schools across the United States and around the world, more than 650 have been selected as Danforth finalists.

We are proud to announce that 13 members of our incoming Class of 2023 are Danforth Scholars. These outstanding scholars were selected from nearly 3,000 nominations.

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 continues to be one of St. Louis’ most highly regarded public citizens and a tireless champion of the community.

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 Danforth House.

Led by the Danforth Scholars Program Director, Jeffery Matthews, 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.

Camp Miniwanca

Student pose 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

Spring Break Service Trip

Students pose on a pile of mulchAll Danforth Scholars are encouraged to participate in a community-service based spring break experience. 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.

Danforth Anniversary

Danforth Scholars Program 20th Anniversary Celebration

Sept. 10-12, 2021

Click here for more information.


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 evaluate applications and invite finalists to Washington University for personal interviews in late March. To remain eligible for scholarships, finalists will need to come to Washington University for the interviews and related activities. Washington University will pay for finalists’ round-trip expenses within the United States and their expenses while in St. Louis during these four days.

Learn more about applying


Danforth Newsletter-Fall 2018

Danforth Newsletter-Fall 2019

Contact Info

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

Jeffery Matthews
Director, Danforth Scholars Program
Contact Jeffery 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

Scholars Network