Bradley Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is named for two brothers who helped co-found the Allen-Bradley Company in 1903. Today, the foundation holds hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. Supporting conservative thinkers and researchers in academia is one of its stated priorities.

IP TAKE: This conservative powerhouse supports higher ed work that aligns with its overall values. Grants for like-minded researchers and the foundation’s graduate-level Bradley Fellowships play a key role in this strategy.

PROFILE: The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee is named for two of the three co-founders who started the Allen-Bradley Company in 1903. In 1985, Allen-Bradley was purchased by Rockwell International—a sale that “boosted The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation’s assets from less than $14 million to more than $290 million.”

In the three decades since, the foundation has given close to $900 million in pursuit of its mission of “strengthening the institutions, principles, and values that nurture and sustain the American Experiment and the West,” including a focus on “limited, competent government and a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual, and cultural activity” and a deeply held belief “that responsible self-government depends on enlightened citizens.”

The foundation's current giving strategy, based on on this worldview, is rooted in pushing back against “contemporary forces and ideas that regard individuals more as passive and helpless victims of powerful external forces than as personally responsible, self-governing citizens, and that foster a deep skepticism about citizenly values and mediating structures.”

To that end, Bradley is focused on supporting initiatives and projects that “treat free men and women as genuinely self-governing, personally responsible citizens, not as victims or clients,” “aim to restore the intellectual and cultural legitimacy of citizenly common sense,” “seek to reinvigorate and reempower the traditional, local institutions [such as] families, schools, churches, and neighborhoods” to foster a sense of citizenship and morality, and that seek “decentralization of power and accountability away from centralized, bureaucratic, national institutions.”

The range of eligible projects is similarly broad, but for higher ed institutions, it is important to underline that they include “policy research and writing” as well as “academic research and writing that explore the intellectual roots of citizenship, its decline, and prospects for revival.”

With that in mind, the foundation has supported projects like two separate $30,000 grants to Boston University for “research on the role of religion in modern society.” Along similar lines, the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University recently announced that it had received a “major grant” to be used “for the creation of the Tradition Project, a new initiative exploring the value of tradition for contemporary citizens and the relationship of tradition and change in today’s world”.

Bradley also has a special place in its heart for its home of Milwaukee, WI - a likely motivation behind a recent $100,00 capital campaign contribution to that city’s Alverno College.

As IP has previously reported, Bradley is also keenly focused on supporting like-minded scholars at the early stages in their careers. Started in 1986, Bradley's Fellowship Program - available at universities around the country - supports graduate students and post-docs, largely with the goal of building intellectual muscle in the academy and beyond. Fellowship recipients are selected by the institution, not the foundation, and must be recommended by “one or more distinguished professors in the humanities, social sciences, and the law.” As the foundation reports:

Of the thousands of past Bradley Fellows, hundreds teach at the country’s most-prestigious colleges and universities, while an equal number are affiliated with research institutes and hold prominent positions in government.

At the same time, Bradley has given tens of millions to think tanks like the Hudson Institute, the Hoover Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and American Enterprise Institute, all of which are often the employers of those Bradley Fellows who head into the policy world. In this way, Bradley has created something of a career track for conservative scholars by helping them through grad school and making sure there are jobs awaiting them afterward as endowed chairs, think tank fellows, or editors of policy journals.

Lastly come the Bradley Prizes, which annually award $250,000 to “individuals of extraordinary talent and dedication who have made contributions of excellence in areas consistent with The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation’s mission…[and] whose achievements strengthen the legacy of the Bradley brothers and the ideas to which they were committed." Each year, the Board of Directors receives nominations “from a national panel of more than 100 prominent individuals involved in academia, public-policy research, journalism, civic affairs, and the arts” before making a final selection. Awardees come from multiple walks of life, and several recent honorees have held prominent positions at major universities. Past recipients are listed here.

Getting back to grants - if the foundation’s principles align with your higher ed research objectives, it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the foundation’s Board of Directors, which is responsible for both “general program interests and specific funding decisions.”

To get the grant application process rolling, first submit a letter of inquiry, which will be reviewed to determine whether you’ll be invited to submit a full proposal. Proposals are reviewed four times a year, on the first of February, May, August, and November.

PEOPLE:

  • Daniel P. Schmidt, Vice President for Program
  • Jessica F. Dean, Vice President for External Relations
  • R. Michael Lempke, Vice President for Investments

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