Politics & Policy

Conservative Genius

Big awards from the Bradley Foundation.

Up to four people will win $250,000 apiece this September as the first recipients of the Bradley Prizes, a new set of awards for intellectual or civic achievement given by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

“We want to recognize and award the people who generate important ideas and those who use them,” says Michael Grebe, president and CEO of the foundation.

The announcement generated immediate excitement in philanthropic circles. “From Alfred Nobel to Sir John Templeton to the Bradley Foundation, smart philanthropists have recognized that high-prestige, high-dollar prizes are a superb way to achieve their missions — by rewarding, publicizing, and strengthening the individuals and institutions that most effectively advance the donors’ principles,” says Adam Meyerson of the Philanthropy Roundtable.

Recipients of the Bradley Prizes will fall into one of two broad categories, says Grebe. “There are the ‘thinkers’ who make intellectual contributions, and the ‘doers’ who implement those ideas.”

In the coming weeks, the Bradley Foundation will invite about 100 people to submit nominations. They will include figures from academia, public policy research, journalism, business, and the arts. They won’t be allowed to nominate themselves, and six of them will be asked to serve on a selection committee with three members of the Bradley board and staff to review the nominations and pick the winners. The members of the committee will remain anonymous until the awards are announced.

“These are not intended to be lifetime achievement awards. There’s no age limit and there are no strings attached, but we hope these awards will inspire people to make even more contributions that are consistent with the mission of the Bradley Foundation,” says Grebe.

The Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation has been a vital funder of conservative causes for nearly two decades. This year it expects to disperse about $30 million in grants to groups and individuals that include the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

Many will compare the new Bradley Prizes to the MacArthur Fellows Program, sometimes called the MacArthur “genius” grants, which award $500,000 to as many as 40 people each year. Of the 635 people who have made the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s cut since 1981, almost none have been conservatives. (One exception is Robert Woodson of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise; he took home a MacArthur award in 1990.)

The Bradley Prizes will become an annual happening, and Grebe hopes they’ll attract national attention. “This is not an effort to promote the Bradley Foundation. This is an effort to help the recipients and promote what they do,” he says.

An awards ceremony will be held this September, in Washington, D.C.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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