Bradley, Lydia Moss (1816–1908)

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Bradley, Lydia Moss (1816–1908)

American philanthropist. Born on July 31, 1816, in Vevay, Indiana; died on January 16, 1908, in Peoria, Illinois; married Tobias S. Bradley, in May 1837; children: six.

A native of Indiana, Lydia Moss married Tobias S. Bradley in 1837 and moved with him to Peoria, Illinois, where he amassed a fortune in land and banking. Upon his death in 1867, Bradley was left with the means to pursue the couples' dream of endowing an educational institution in memory of their six children who had all died young. Carefully managing the estate through wise investments, Bradley began her philanthropic activities with gifts to her church and the establishment of a home for elderly women. In 1876, a charter for Bradley Polytechnic Institute was obtained, and three years later the first buildings—Bradley Hall and Horology Hall—were built. Endowing the 28-acre campus with $2 million, Bradley saw her dream fulfilled before her death in 1908. The academy, which combined academic and practical training, pioneered in the field of domestic science, subsequently adding art and music schools. In 1920, Bradley's school achieved full college status, awarding its first baccalaureate degrees. It became Bradley University in 1946.