In Memoriam: Whitney MacMillan (1929-2020)

News | March 17, 2020

The EastWest Institute (EWI) respectfully acknowledges the passing of Whitney MacMillan, former chairman and CEO of Cargill, Incorporated, and noted patron of education and philanthropy. MacMillan died on March 11, 2020 at the age of 90.

He served as co-chairman of EWI’s board of directors, from 1985 to 1986, and as chairman of the board, from 1986 to 1987. His seasoned business experience, specifically his interactions with nations in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, played an instrumental role in shaping the institute’s mission during its formative years.

MacMillan was born in Orono, Minnesota, and is the great-grandson of Cargill company founder W.W. Cargill. He was a graduate of Blake School and Yale University, where he earned a degree in history.

MacMillan spent 44 years at Cargill, leading the privately-owned, colossal food giant to an era of unprecedented growth and diversification, transforming the company’s management and governance to support changing food needs around the world. For nearly 20 years—from 1976 until his retirement in 1995—he served as Cargill’s chairman and chief executive officer. He was the last of the MacMillan and Cargill families to serve as a senior executive.

After retiring from the company, he taught corporate strategy at University of St. Thomas school of business. In addition, MacMillan was an advisor at Claremont College, the University of Minnesota, Harvard University, the University of Wyoming, USAID and The World Bank on public policy matters, including food safety, environmental and development issues.

MacMillan was a director of the Salzburg Seminar, Rural Development Institute, The Trilateral Commission, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, International Peace Academy, Western NIS Enterprise Fund, Yale President’s Council on International Activities, Ruckelshaus Institute and School of Environmental and Natural Resources, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

As well as the EastWest Institute, he served on numerous boards including the International Peace Institute, the Salzburg Global Seminar and the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Whitney and his beloved wife Elizabeth (“Betty”) founded the WEM Foundation, which supported dozens of organizations mostly in Minnesota, Florida and Africa. These include the Guthrie Theater, Smithsonian Institution, Mayo Clinic, Project for Pride in Living and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

MacMillan is survived by Betty, his wife of 68 years, and their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, as well as his sister Pauline.

Image credit: Star Tribune