Sowing A New World Harvest

With 20 years of marketing genius behind him, Arnold Donald is leading the Monsanto Co. into the agriculture biotech future

carpenter father built. There, his parents raised him, his four older siblings:: end some 27 foster children. “We we’re poor, but I was blessed with a loving and nurturing family. My parents did whatever they could make life good for us.”

A quick study, he learned the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic from his sister, Yvonne, before he even entered kindergarten. In 1968, while the growing pains of school integration gripped the nation, Donald attended St. Augustine, a predominately black Catholic school for boys. Renown for its National Merit Scholars as well as its athletes, the school piped aphorisms such as “you can be whatever you want to be” over the public address system daily. His education was enhanced by the informal mentoring of successful St. Augustine alum and summer courses at exclusive prep schools Exeter and Andover in the rolling hills of Massachusetts.

By his junior year, Donald had his career track mapped out–marked by duality. “I wanted to be general manager at a science-based company whose products would make difference in the world,” he recalls. It was the perfect resolution for a young man interested in science and business.

His plan included dual degrees in economics and mechanical engineering and an M.B.A. from a top business school. In 1972, Donald turned down offers from Yale, Stanford and Westpoint but chose the intimate educational environment of Carleton College. At the small liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota, he met his future wi
fe, Hazel. Together they have three children, Radiah, 20, Alicia, 17, and Stephen Zachary, 2.

While earning his engineering degree at Washington University in St. Louis, he was vice president and a founding member of the National Society of Black Engineers. In 1977, with both undergraduate degrees in hand and at least 20 job offers on the table, Donald opted for a senior market analyst position at Monsanto. At the same time, he was earning an M.B.A. in finance and international business at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. “My strategy was always to maximize the probabilities. Although I had no desire to work in finance, I thought that knowing it would be important to general management, so I immersed myself in it.” The strategy worked and his 20 years of foresight and ingenuity has not escaped recognition.

Named the 1997 Agri-Marketer of the Year by the National Agri-Marketing Association, Donald also serves on the company’s Executive Operations Council. In addition, he serves on the management team of Monsanto’s pharmaceutical unit, Searle, maker of arthritic drugs and oral contraceptives. Donald’s four-pronged philosophy for business success is: aim to fulfill the company’s mission, know your customer’s needs, bring in diverse and talented people and deliver results. Notes Monsanto Chairman, President and Chief Officer Robert Robert Shapiro: “Arnold sets extremely high standards and inspires people to meet them. As far as I can see, his potential is unlimited.”

Success came early for Donald. Among his many innovative and profitable ventures, perhaps the most monumental occurred in 1988 while he was

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