David C. Farrell

David C. Farrell began his career at Kaufmann’s department store, which was part of the May Department Stores Company, and worked his way up to become chairman and chief executive officer of the May Company. Farrell received an honorary doctor of science degree in 2007.


One of the nation’s most successful retail executives, Farrell retired in 1998 after 20 years at the helm of the May Company. Under his leadership, May grew to become one of the largest and most profitable department store companies in the country.

During his tenure at May, Farrell oversaw one of the largest mergers of retailing companies of the decade when May Department Stores acquired Associated Dry Goods Corporation in an exchange of stock roughly valued at $2.7 billion. As a result, May Company grew to include 303 department, specialty and discount stores.

Providing support to the Washington University community

Since retiring, Farrell has devoted much of his time and resources to supporting the greater St. Louis community, including Washington University.

In 2000, Farrell and his wife, Betty, in partnership with the former May Company, established the David C. and Betty Farrell Distinguished Professorship in Medicine in Washington University’s John Milliken Department of Medicine. Stuart A. Kornfeld, M.D., currently holds the professorship.

The Farrells also provided the leadership gift to build the state-of-the-art Farrell Learning and Teaching Center on the medical campus.

A trustee emeritus of the University’s Board of Trustees, he serves as chairman of the Danforth Circle Eliot Society, for which he and his wife are Life Patrons.

He also serves on the Community Advisory Board of the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center and is on the medical school’s National Council and a member of the school’s medical finance committee.