Memorial set Tuesday for Charles Bradley, university and community innovator

Charles Bradley and the snow measuring device he invented
Memorial services are set at 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 2 in the Great Room of the Alumni and Foundation Center for Charles C. Bradley, a man whose passion for the mountains helped transform both the teaching and research programs of Montana State University and the community of Bozeman.

Bradley, who died at his home in Wisconsin in May at the age of 91, is known as one of MSU's innovators. He was the first dean of MSU's College of Letters and Sciences and led its predecessors, the Division of Science and the Division of Letters and Science. According to Jim McMillan, current dean of the College of Letters and Sciences, Bradley provided the transition of the college from a "group of service departments to a college that reflects what a university should be."

A professional geologist by training, Bradley is also recognized as the founder of MSU's group of world-respected snow scientists.

"(Bradley) was responsible for recruiting many good people on campus who studied snow mechanics," McMillan said. "The accomplishments of that group are legendary now. We are world leaders in snow mechanics, and he is the one who got them going."

Born in Chicago in 1911, Bradley's journey into the science of mountains and snow began when he enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. During that time, he met future Bozemanites John Montagne, Bob Beck and Eric Anderson who trained together, first in the 87th Infantry in Fort Lewis, Wash. and later in the prestigious Tenth Mountain Division in Camp Hale, Colo. Bradley served his duty in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Many years later, Bradley would write about the personalities and duties of the Tenth Mountain Division in his book, "Aleutian Echoes," illustrated with his own drawings and paintings. The book is still sold in Alaska and other stores and Web sites interested in mountaineering history.

Following the war, Bradley completed a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin and moved to Bozeman in 1950 to teach at Montana State College as the first professional geologist on campus. Later, Bradley enticed his old friend John Montagne to reunite with him at MSC and they formed the tandem upon which the MSU snow sciences team was built.

"It was an interesting coalition, a multi-disciplinary effort involving scientists and engineers," recalls his daughter Dorothy Bradley, a prominent figure in Montana Democratic politics and local civic activities. "Everyone thought it was a rather absurd pipe dream."

"John and Charles formed a unique team in the '60s that gained an international reputation in snow research," said retired civil engineering professor Bob Brown, who came to MSU to join the team. "Ted Lang and I joined the team, along with graduate students. All of us formed the most substantial snow research team in the country." Brown said today's MSU snow research team, now headed by Ed Adams, retains that reputation.

In addition, during Bradley's tenure, the small geography and geology department grew into a substantial and respected earth sciences department, McMillan said.

"In 1957 he was pressed into service to supervise the Division of Science, which consisted of an evolving group of departments that now form the College of Letters and Science," McMillan said. When MSC became MSU in 1965, the divisions were elevated to colleges and Bradley became the dean of the College of Letters and Sciences.

McMillan remembers that Bradley yearned to go back to the classroom, but did a masterful job as dean.

"Charles Bradley left his mark as being one of most honest and decent people that folks that knew him remember," McMillan said. "He was a very unassuming person. He took no credit himself for his accomplishments. He had a wry sense of humor that helped put difficult situations into perspective."

Bradley also started what has become the Media and Theatre Arts Department. "He thought MSU should have one so he established it, but later he thought it didn't belong with Letters and Science," McMillan recalled. The department is now part of the College of Arts and Architecture.

Bradley's interest in snow extended beyond science. Shortly after arriving in Bozeman and Montana State in 1950, he became a member of the community effort to build a ski area on what was then called Bridger Road.

"My father was such a ski mountaineer at heart that he originally had mixed feelings about the building of Bridger Bowl," Dorothy Bradley recalled. "He loved the solitude of trekking up mountains with a handful of friends. However, he realized that if we are going to do it, we needed to do it right. And knowing the Bridger Range, he knew that more people should have access to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world." In the original creation, he was part of "a wonderful community effort with lots of people donating massive amounts of time and talent. It was a great-spirited adventure," Dorothy recalls of the work to open Bridger Bowl in the mid-'50s.

His first wife, Maynard Riggs, died in 1969, and Bradley later married childhood friend Nina Leopold. Following his retirement in the mid-'70s, the couple moved to Wisconsin to continue the work of her father, Aldo Leopold. They lived at the Leopold Reserve, the site of the famous book "Sand County Almanac" and they continued to promote scientific exploration, conservation and prairie restoration. In 1988 they were jointly recognized for their work with an honorary doctorate from Bradley's alma mater, the University of Wisconsin.

Bradley is survived by his widow Nina, his children Charles Jr. and Dorothy and step-children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Persons who wish to share anecdotes or special memories of Bradley will be given an opportunity during the reception.

The Bradley family is suggesting that those who would like to make a contribution in his memory may do so to the MSU College of Letters and Sciences' Fund for Academic Excellence. Checks made out to the MSU Foundation/Bradley may be sent to the MSU Foundation at P.O. Box 172750, Bozeman, 59717.

Written by Carol Schmidt and posted June 28, 2002.
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