Professorship in Law Honors Sally Dobson Danforth

A return to private life more than 20 years ago has suited former U.S. Senator John C. Danforth to a T. The reason: his wife, Sally Dobson Danforth.

“I spent the major part of my life in public service in a highly visible way and, therefore, was less visible to my family,” Mr. Danforth says. “Sally is important in my life and in the lives of our children.”

While Mr. Danforth was practicing law and then serving 26 years in elective office, Mrs. Danforth’s priority was making a home for their five children, whether in New York, their native St. Louis, Jefferson City, or Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Danforth attended Mary Institute in St. Louis before graduating from the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, New York. She went on to attend Sweet Briar College and married Mr. Danforth in 1957.

Mrs. Danforth has served on numerous boards of organizations in Washington, D.C, and St. Louis, including the Washington Society for the Performing Arts, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Alzheimer’s Association, and Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School. She is a founding member of both the Komen Race for the Cure and the Parents Music Resource Center.

“Everyone who knows Sally has a high regard for her character and her caring nature,” Mr. Danforth says. “She is a very excellent and consequential person, and I would like future generations to know this. I wanted to honor Sally in a formal, permanent way.”

To that end, Mr. Danforth has made a commitment of $3 million to establish and endow the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professorship. It will be awarded to a tenured faculty member in the School of Law who also will maintain a connection to the university’s John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics.

The Danforth Center on Religion and Politics was established in 2010 through the generosity of the Danforth Foundation. The center’s mission is to deepen academic and public understanding of religion and politics in the United States. Mr. Danforth serves on its national advisory board.

“The expectation is that an absolutely first-class scholar will teach at the School of Law and also teach a course on law and religion,” says Mr. Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest who was considered a voice of moderation and reason in the Senate. “I have high hopes for this professorship.”

Mr. Danforth is a partner with Dowd Bennett LLP in St. Louis and the author of three books, the most recent, “The Relevance of Religion,” released in October 2015. But it is Mrs. Danforth who keeps him grounded, he says, and keeps the family, which includes 14 grandchildren, in close touch.

When Mr. Danforth submitted his resignation as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 2004, he wrote, “Forty-seven years ago, I married the girl of my dreams, and, at this point in my life, what is most important to me is to spend more time with her. Because you know Sally, you know my reason for going home.”

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Former U.S. Senator John Danforth with his wife, Sally. “Everyone who knows Sally has a high regard for her character and her caring nature,” he says.