Cornelius Bradley was a "champion of the student community", according to
UW-Madison's history books, and was a well-respected member of the faculty.
He was wealthy of both spirit and finances contributing actively to the
life of undergraduate students and to Medical education. The Bradley
Learning Community could not have been named for a better person: Bradley
was an early and strong advocate for faculty and student out-of-class
interaction, being one of the founders and designers of Hoofers, University
Health Services, the Lakeshore Residence Halls, and the Memorial Union's
student goverance system.
Born in California in 1878, Professor Bradley came to the University of
Wisconsin as a junior professor of biochemistry and physiology in 1906,
having just received his doctorate in physiological chemistry from Yale.
Then President Charles Van Hise and the founding Dean of the Medical School,
Charles R. Bardeen, hired Bradley as one of a team of three faculty to
develop a true medical education at the university. In 1907, Professor
Bradley initiated instruction in physiology and physiological chemistry.
Physiological chemistry became an independent department in 1921 and was
headed by Bradley until 1947. He was extremely outgoing, forthright, and
personable, suiting him well to take leadership on campus and in his
scientific organizations. (One UW-Madison history book remarked that a
testament to his leadership ability was that he garnered local and national
recognition for his relatively small department in the shadow of a much
stronger and extremely successful biochemistry department in the College of
Some aspects of Bradley's out-of-class student-faculty interaction could
only have occurred when they did: within two years of coming to Madison,
Professor Bradley met, fell in love with, and married an undergraduate in
her junior year. Mary Josephine Crane became an accomplished organizer and
philanthropist in her own right; the fact that she was completely deaf from
age two did not appear to slow her down. The bride's father, wealthy Chicago
industrialist Charles Crane, was a personal friend of Chicago architect
Louis Sullivan, then at the end of his career. Crane hired Sullivan to
design and build a house for the newlyweds, to occupy all of block 19 of a
fancy new western suburb of Madison. This house is the huge and now famous
Bradley house in University Heights (its current address is 106 N. Prospect
Ave.) The Bradley's first child, Mary Cornelius, was born in 1909. Seven
other children, all boys, were to follow.
Tragedy struck the Bradley family when 6 1/2 year-old Mary contracted spinal
meningitis and pneumonia and died in January 1916. Their house clearly
contained too many memories for them: in the following 8 months, the
Bradleys began selling off the parts of their land not occupied by their
house, and in September 1917, they sold the house and the four lots on which
it stood to the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity (now called the Sigma Phi
Society) for $30,000. As another means to cope with Mary's death, the
Bradleys donated $50,000 towards the construction of a memorial hospital to
research childhood diseases. The Mary Cornelius Bradley Memorial Hospital
still stands today, facing Linden Drive.
Because of his outgoing personality, his strong connection and commitment to
undergraduates, and his reputation for saying exactly what was on his mind,
Professor Bradley was an effective advocate both for students and with
administrators. He envisioned faculty-student interactions that were based
on healthy and responsible extracurricular student-focused activities.
Professor Bradley had a hand in shaping many of the major student life
programs on campus that we now take for granted:
After a 1908 outbreak of typhoid on campus that killed several students,
Bradley took up the charge to bring a student health service to campus a
health facility that was not only easily accessible to university students,
but that would be tailored specifically to their needs. The University
Health Services opened in 1910.
Bradley was an avid skier and outdoors enthusiast, and often took students
with him to ski in northern Wisconsin. On one such trip that included then
President Glen Frank, Bradley convinced Frank that these outdoor activities
should be institutionalized by the university-they were exactly what
promoted faculty-student relationships based on mutual interests and
responsibility. In 1926, the Hoofers Outing Club was formed.
Professor Bradley was appointed to the 1932 Brown Commission, which studied
the growing professional and commercial character of intercollegiate sports.
What was specifically a problem at the time was "the relation of
intercollegiate athletics to the educational activities and policies of the
University and the proper balance to be maintained between the same." The
Brown Commission report became a blueprint for UW-Madison athletics for the
next 20 years.
President Frank and Professor Bradley shared a vision of student life
"integrated" into the values of an undergraduate education. He named Bradley
chair of a broad-based committee, whose forty members included alumni as
well as faculty, students and administrators, to plan for the governance of
the Memorial when it was to open in 1928. Two important issues were to be
taken up by this committee: the inclusion of women in the Union activities
(up to that point, women were excluded from student unions across the
country), and the extent to which students should control the Union's
programming and management. Including women fully in Union activities and
programming proved to be a relatively easy issue compared to the much more
contentious one to determine the role of student governance. But, as Chair
of the committee, Bradley's vision to develop opportunities for student
leadership and responsibility won out. On May 16, 1928, Professor Bradley
presided over a ceremony transferring control of union affairs to a new
student-dominated Union Council. As reported by the Daily Cardinal at that
time, this was "an unparalleled advance in student self-government at
Wisconsin and nationally."
Professor Bradley played a key role in the development of our lakeshore
residence hall system, and led the way to create the innovative house fellow
system that is now the norm across the country. In 1922, new dormitories
were to be constructed on the lakeshore area of campus, the first student
residences to be built in almost 40 years. The regents appointed Bradley to
a three-member Dormitories Committee to oversee the physical planning as
well as the student programming that these structures would contain.
In the words of the Committee, dormitories "should make student living
conditions less costly, more comfortable, more thoroughly decent ... lessen
social distinctions in student society ... and help to develop a vigorous
and healthy morale." The structures themselves should be built to best
promote these ideals, and so the Committee recommended "entry-quadrangle
type buildings, each containing several separate structures grouped to
enclose a central court, with a separate door for each building of a varied
and noninstitutional character. The buildings should be divided into houses
... [each with] a common room to help promote the social unity of the
house." These open-quadrangle style dormitories opened as Tripp and Adams
Halls in 1926. They were meant to provide a "neighborhood feel" to student
Bradley championed the idea that older students, house fellows, should live
in the undergraduate houses to provide leadership and peer counseling and to
serve as role models to foster well-rounded social and intellectual
interests. Bradley fought to have house fellow selection and training
"professionalized" it was to be made uniform across campus, the selection
and training was to be done by professionals within the housing system, and
house fellows were to be paid a wage commensurate with their duties.
Building on his success as a member of the Dormitories Committee, President
Frank appointed Bradley to the All University Commission, to study "the
problems of the articulation of the University in its several parts;" its
charge being an early incarnation of what we now call "integrative learning"
the blurring of the boundaries between in-class and out-of-class learning
and experiences. One program that occupied the Commission was the creation
and overseeing of Alexander Meiklejohn's Experimental College. The "Ex
College" had a storied and contentious life. It lasted only 5 years, from
1927 to 1932, but its legacy spread across the country and to this day in
the Bradley Learning Community.
Professor Bradley continued his advocacy on behalf of an integrated student
life. He was on the Dormitories Committee when the Kronshage houses were
built in the late 1930s, and left this committee only as residence halls
began to be built as high rises. The Kronshage buildings expanded the vision
of university houses providing a comprehensive and active neighborhood for
students. By the early 1940's these buildings contained a barbershop, a
nonprofit food co-op, a library, and a music room. Students began a
newspaper and a radio station, and the dorms themselves were administered,
fashioned after Tripp and Adams, by a student-run government. These
buildings, like Tripp and Adams before them, embodied the student-driven,
active and vibrant neighborhood that Bradley envisioned.
Harold C. Bradley retired from the university in 1949, and died in 1976. By
then his vision of a university providing rich opportunities for student
leadership and responsibility was largely realized. The programs that he
helped create were so much a part of student life that UW-Madison is
unimaginable without them. In 1976, the regents honored Professor Bradley's
contributions to the university by giving his name to one of the lakeshore
residence halls. That the Bradley Learning Community was founded in his hall
twenty years later would have made him very proud.
-Aaron M. Brower, Ph.D.
Aaron Brower is a Professor of Social Work and Integrated Liberal
Studies. He was one of the founding Faculty Fellows in the Bradley Learning
Community and now serves as Faculty Director.