Alumni Association

University of Colorado Boulder

Aerospace leader Sanford McDonnell passes on

From the NY Times:

Sanford McDonnell, Aerospace Leader, Dies at 89

Published: March 21, 2012

Sanford N. McDonnell (MechEngr’48), who succeeded his uncle as chairman of the aerospace company McDonnell Douglas and, through the 1980s, modernized its management systems, remade the corporate culture and sharply increased earnings, died on Monday at his home in Clayton, Mo. He was 89.

The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, his son, Randall, said.

Mr. McDonnell, an engineer, became chairman of the company in 1980 after the death of its founder, his uncle James Smith McDonnell, who had run it for four decades.

The younger Mr. McDonnell set out to make the corporate culture less autocratic and to turn around its unprofitable commercial airline division. He also helped develop some of the company’s most successful fighter planes, including the F-4 Phantom II.

During his tenure, the company’s earnings rose sharply, and new management made the commercial airline division profitable, though the company remained slow to invest in new technology.

Mr. McDonnell was chief executive when McDonnell Douglas completed the Skylab space station in 1973.

Sanford Noyes McDonnell was born on Oct. 12, 1922, in Little Rock, Ark. The family moved to St. Louis after his uncle chose it as a safer place to build military aircraft than the coasts. The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation became the city’s largest employer.

Read the rest at the NY Times.

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