John McDonnell served as chairman of the McDonnell Douglas Corp. from 1988 until its merger with Boeing in 1997. He served on the Boeing board of directors and served on its Compensation and Governance, Organization and Nominating committees.
Son of McDonnell Aircraft founder James S. McDonnell, John was born in Baltimore in 1938. He holds bachelor's (1960) and master's (1962) degrees in aeronautical engineering from Princeton University.
In 1959, he and his stepbrother, G. David Forney, successfully flew a single-engine Piper Comanche aircraft 18,000 miles around the coastlines of Central and South America. Both licensed pilots, the stepbrothers completed the 76-day journey without the use of any sophisticated navigational aids.
John joined McDonnell Aircraft in 1962 as a strength engineer on the Gemini manned spacecraft project. He then moved into contract administration and corporate finance. Later, he served as assistant to the vice president of finance at Douglas Aircraft Co. In 1968 he became vice president of McDonnell Douglas Finance Corp.
He returned to corporate headquarters in St. Louis in 1971 as staff vice president, fiscal. He was named corporate vice president for finance and planning the following year. In 1977 he became executive vice president.
John was elected president of the corporation in 1980 and became COO in 1987. He was named chairman and CEO in 1988. He held the CEO position until September 1994, when he brought in Harry Stonecipher as president and CEO of the corporation.
Among his many professional and civic affiliations, John is chairman of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center board of trustees and serves as vice chairman of the board of trustees of Washington University in St. Louis.
John and his wife, Anne, were married in 1961. They have five children and four grandchildren.