Bradleys invest in imagination and inquiry

Forever-BradleyEach year, more than 4,000 Clemson undergraduate students enjoy exercising their imaginations through a unique, faculty-led research program because of Phil and Mary Bradley’s generosity.

Phil’s father, William F. Bradley, was a veteran student at Clemson College in the late 1930s and finished his degree in 1952 after a long leave of absence. Throughout his childhood, Phil had his heart set on Clemson and much to his satisfaction, enrolled here after high school. After his sophomore year, Phil married his high school sweetheart, Mary, and before he graduated in 1965, they had begun their own family with daughter, Renee.

Clemson’s hills are full of memories for the Charleston natives, and today they enjoy giving back to the place that gave so much to them.

It began in 2005 when Phil and Mary met with former provost Dori Helms to learn more about her vision for a new undergraduate research program called Creative Inquiry. The Bradleys also were introduced to a few of Helms’ students and took note of what they were accomplishing in their studies. To say they were impressed would be an understatement.

“Some students were starting businesses and even had patents and copyrights. It was a real eye-opener for me,” Phil said.

The Bradleys stepped up and assisted with funding the program through annual support for five years. “I really wanted to help a program that needed financial support, and there’s been unbelievable growth,” he said. The program’s growth as well as the Bradley’s continued appreciation for the students led them to provide the first major gift for the Creative Inquiry Enhancement Fund.

However, it wasn’t just the students who made an impact on the Bradleys. They also took note of how passionate the faculty members were about the students’ success and felt these mentors deserved recognition. This inspired the Bradleys to establish the Phil and Mary Bradley Award for Mentoring in Creative Inquiry — a generous award presented to a faculty member in recognition of outstanding work with undergraduate students.

Clemson traditions were engrained in the Bradley’s children, Philip and Renee, at a very young age. They are now proud alumni and have passed on their love for Clemson to their very own families. The family’s shared love for Clemson encouraged Phil and Mary to become more involved on campus. Phil was elected to the Board of Visitors in 2006 and is also a proud member of the Clemson Foundation. “This gave me the opportunity to see the needs of Clemson University and how we go about meeting those needs. It’s gotten me more involved in not just the support of athletics but what’s happening on campus and how we can further those goals,” he said.

The Bradleys are a “One Clemson” family, supporting both athletics and academics, and believe that seeing the outcomes has made a big difference in their lives. Phil and Mary often talk to one another about their relationship with Clemson and always agree that it is money well spent. “There is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a difference in the life of a Clemson student,” Phil said.

When Phil is presented with the opportunity to talk to someone about investing in Clemson, he always says, “Do not hesitate. Do not wait. It doesn’t matter how small. I use the philosophy that if you’re a Clemson alum, you learned, you earned and now you need to return. You need to return and give something back to Clemson. I think Creative Inquiry is a great program you can start with.”

“There is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a difference in the life of a Clemson student.”

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