Professor Harold 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 governance 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 Agriculture).
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 Bradleys' 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 living.
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.