Character education visionary leaves imprint on UMSL

Sanford "Sandy" Noyes McDonnell (1922-2012) founded Character Education Partnership, created CHARACTERplus and established the Sanford McDonnell Endowed Professorship for Character Education at UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

After leaving his corporate career as chief executive officer of McDonnell Douglas Corp., Sanford Noyes McDonnell could have enjoyed the easy pace of a relaxing retirement. Instead, he began what he called his “retirement career,” and that career has left a lasting imprint on the University of Missouri–St. Louis and beyond.

McDonnell, known to many as “Sandy,” passed away at his home in Clayton, Mo., on March 19 after losing his battle with cancer. But his legacy and vision of character education for all students will continue to empower educators.

Nationally, he founded Character Education Partnership, which is the leading national force in character education. Locally, he created CHARACTERplus, the regional professional development organization in character education. And in the late 1990s, McDonnell partnered with UMSL to create and endow a professorship dedicated to the education and research of character education.

Marvin W. Berkowitz has held the Sanford McDonnell Endowed Professorship for Character Education at UMSL since its inception. The professorship is part of the Des Lee Collaborative Vision at UMSL.

“For the past 25 years, he went to work every day to spread effective character education practices,” Berkowitz said. “He brought the same personal character, intellect, work ethic and generosity to this new career that he had embodied throughout his life. And we have all benefitted immensely from this gift.”

He added that McDonnell’s passion for character education created resources to benefit the region.

“Sandy’s vision, generosity, wisdom and commitment have allowed UMSL to establish the Center for Character and Citizenship, which serves the region, nation and world in helping to foster the development of moral and civic character in youth,” Berkowitz said. “He changed my life and inspired me to carry on his legacy as best as I can. Who he was as a person and what he dedicated his life to are an inspiration to do good in the world.”

Through the Center for Character and Citizenship, the Sanford N. McDonnell Leadership Academy in Character Education graduates several dozen school educators and administrators each year.

In 2008, as a testament to his wife of more than 60 years, he endowed an annual UMSL music scholarship in memory of her father, Donald Robb.

UMSL Chancellor Tom George said McDonnell’s impact on UMSL and the region will be carried on by the students and educators who benefit from his vision.

“Sandy was a true inspiration to the region and beyond. And he was a great friend of UMSL,” George said. “We consider ourselves most fortunate and privileged to have been his friend. He will be sorely missed.”

Click here to view a UMSL video featuring McDonnell. Click here to read McDonnell’s obituary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Click here to read McDonnell’s obituary in the St. Louis Beacon.

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