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What I’ve Learned


Joe Bradley ’78 (economics)

Trustee
Philanthropist
Attorney
Trial Lawyer
Visionary
Wolf Pack Fan

Throughout my life, I have learned the importance of an education—not only to acquire knowledge, but also because it is during your education that you develop lifelong relationships with people who serve as mentors and become friends. It is also important to help those who are less fortunate and continually strive to improve conditions within your community. This is something I do every day in my job as a senior partner at the law offices of Bradley, Drendel & Jeanney and in my philanthropic work as a trustee of the E.L. Cord Foundation, University of Nevada, Reno Foundation, and the Athletic Association of the University of Nevada.

I’m a native Nevadan born in Reno in 1955. I came through the Washoe County public schools, graduating from Reno High School.  While I was at Reno High, I started my work career. I fueled airplanes and drove concrete trucks, and it was through that experience that I truly learned the value of an education. My father, William O. “Bud” Bradley, had also been a lifelong resident of Nevada. He was a lawyer and pilot. He led a very interesting life in Northern Nevada, first as a water rights and ranching lawyer, and then branching into injury litigation, which we carry on to this day and have done so in our very location at 401 Flint Street for 55 years. My grandfather, Grover Bradley, a general practitioner physician, was the  “company doctor,” if you will, for the mining company in Ely. He delivered babies, performed surgeries, and so on.
As I said, I worked fueling airplanes and one of my bosses at the time was Bob Cashell, the current mayor of the City of Reno. Through the years we learned to appreciate and respect one another for our various abilities.

I initially went away to college to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. It was a small school and the climate was damp and rainy. However, I was a desert rat— I wasn’t cut out for the bohemian lifestyle of Portland, nor its rainy climate, and as a result I came back to the University of Nevada, Reno. I continued working throughout my education at Nevada, earning a degree in economics in 1978.  While I was at Nevada, I met many and varied people whom I still consider friends and still consider very influential in my life. Mike Reed, former professor and dean of the College of Business, current vice chancellor of finance with the Nevada System of Higher Education, was my faculty adviser. Nazir Ansari, emeritus professor of management, was my teacher, and I continue to hold great respect and admiration for both his career and his philanthropy. Ret. Air Force Major General Ron Bath ’68 (business and agriculture), ’71MBA, was a professor of mine and was instrumental in guiding me toward law school. I had a very rich and fulfilling experience at the University of Nevada, Reno in the mid-1970s. As I look back on my life, I recognize how important it was for me to go the University of Nevada, Reno, particularly because at the time I didn’t realize that I was going to continue practicing law in Reno for the next 25 years.

Following my education at Nevada, I attended the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, as many of us did because it was somewhat considered “Nevada’s law school,” if you will. It was there that I met many more interesting and influential people, including the late Dean Schaber, who was the former dean of McGeorge School of Law and former presiding judge of the Sacramento Superior Court.

Law school solidified my desire to continue on in the practice of law doing what my father and his partner had been doing: representing the rights of injured victims. Being a trial lawyer has been extremely rewarding. The people I’ve learned the most from in my legal career would be certainly my father and his partner, John Squire Drendel. Both were highly regarded trial lawyers: fair but firm; always champions of the rights of the less fortunate.

My father was an original trustee of the E.L. Cord Foundation, a Reno-based philanthropic organization. He had been a personal friend and confident to E.L. Cord. The E.L. Cord Foundation was established for the purpose of improving the health, education and welfare of the residents of the Truckee Meadows and rural counties of Northern Nevada. It has been our mission since its inception to continue the vision of E.L. Cord in providing assistance to those most in need, and to improving the lives of the residents of all of Northern Nevada. We think we’ve been very successful at that.

My first role with the E. L. Cord Foundation was as its counsel, and what one might call “program facilitator.” In that role, I met with the executive directors of various non-profits to see if their organizations and missions were consistent with the goals of the E.L. Cord Foundation. As a result, I met many people dedicated to the rights of the less fortunate in Northern Nevada.
As the trustees began to age, they recognized there was going to be a need for successor trustees. Upon the death of one of the trustees, I was elevated to trustee of the E.L. Cord Foundation. And I can honestly say that the work that I do in this field is extremely rewarding because I have the opportunity to make changes in the quality of people’s lives, whether it is in the field of healthcare, public education, city services, or a myriad of other areas.

I’m exceedingly proud of the new Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. When the Knowledge Center was nothing but a scribble on a piece of paper, I met President John Lilley for the first time. He approached the foundation and explained to me how the Knowledge Center was going to be funded: a third through the state, a third through the students, and a third had to be raised privately. I’m proud to say that he approached me as the first potential, major, private donor.  Based on the plans and the vision that Presidents Joe Crowley and John Lilley had for the future of the University, the E.L. Cord Foundation was one of the first private commitments to the Knowledge Center. I like to think that our pledge was the springboard for other donors to become involved, and that this magnificent facility exists today is at least in some part due to our initial involvement. I beam with pride every time I drive by, walk in or, most importantly, see students using the Knowledge Center.

Obviously the University of Nevada, Reno has been the beneficiary of much of the E.L. Cord Foundation’s largess: We are extremely proud that we made a major gift to the E.L. Cord Foundation Academic and Athletics Performance Complex, a 46,000-plus-square-foot facility designed to provide Nevada's student-athletes academic and counseling resources. It is the students-athletes’ “Success Center.” The University is made up of not only academics but also athletics. The E.L. Cord Foundation recognizes the importance of both, and we try to balance our philanthropy to the University to both endeavors so that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.
Because the University has been moving in a very steep upward ascent toward vast improvement, it’s a far different school than when I was there in the mid-70s. Because I saw the University reaching for greatness, I felt it was my duty, as well as my privilege, to become involved with the University on a number of different levels. I first started with the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation Board of Trustees. President Lilley asked me to consider joining the Foundation Board, which I did, and then I was asked soon thereafter to chair the Foundation Board. It’s very important to be involved given the direction the University is going, coupled with the difficult economic times that the University faces. The University has strong leadership in President Milton Glick and the administration is deeply committed to excellence, which fits directly with my own philosophy. Therefore, I am very proud to serve as chair of the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation Board. Interestingly enough, I also sit on the Athletic Association of the University of Nevada Board. Upon the expiration of my term as chair of the Foundation, I become chair-elect of the AAUN Board.

I am deeply involved with the University on many different levels and I like to think it’s because they believe in my vision and my leadership and not necessarily because of my role in the E.L. Cord Foundation! Either way, I’m honored to support the University. I encourage everybody in the community to take a look at what’s going on up on the hill. If people haven’t seen the Knowledge Center, the Joe Crowley Student Union or the E.L. Cord Academic and Athletic Complex, they really should take the time to come up and look because I doubt that there’s a trio of buildings anywhere on the West Coast that would outshine these three facilities. They are state-of-the-art, they are geared toward student success, and in this day and age that is so very important.

My family and I also enjoy many University of Nevada, Reno athletic functions, whether swimming, football, basketball… We love to go to games. We’re proud of the quality of student-athletes.

My wife, Liza ’96 (accounting), and I have two children, Sam and Gina. Gina is a senior in high school, and try as I might, she seems to have a desire to go away to college. I’m trying to talk her into the University. She is the biggest basketball fan the University has!

We enjoy our friendships with everybody at the University from Milton Glick, John Carothers, Mark Fox, Cary Groth, Rory Hickok, just so many people that can’t I name them all. We so much enjoy spending time with these friends, whether it’s at concerts or events such as the discussion with author Isabelle Allende, who came to campus in October. The things that are going on at he University have so enriched this community that we’re lucky to have it up there, and it’s only getting better. Hence my involvement and I will remain involved.

I steal this line from another friend of mine Phil Demanczuk—he and I happened to sit on the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts Board some years ago, and it was at the time that Indian gaming was becoming a looming presence and there was an obvious shift in the demographics of Reno from a purely gaming destination-resort type of town. Other things would have to draw people to Reno, and Phil liked to think that Reno could become the “Monte Carlo of the Sierra.” That phrase has stuck in my mind because I’ve had the very same vision for a long time—not that I wish any ill will at all on gaming, as a matter of fact I want the strong, well-positioned gaming interests to survive and thrive—however I think that there needs to be attractions other than gaming and that includes a strong University system, a strong arts and culture community, and a strong public education system, not to mention a state-of-the-art health community. All those things work together to keep the city of Reno at the forefront and moving in a positive direction so that it remains the beautiful and vital place that it is.

From a conversation with Senior Editor Melanie Robbins ’06M.A. in October 2008. Bradley, 54, is the incoming chair of the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation Board of Trustees. He is a senior partner with the Reno law offices of Bradley, Drendel & Jeanney, where he has worked for the past 25 years. In 2005, he won a $4 million jury verdict on behalf of a young, mentally disabled man seriously burned by a defective fryer machine. He graduated in 1978 with a degree in economics. He earned a juris doctorate in 1983 from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. His wife, Liza, graduated from Nevada in 1996 with a degree in accounting. The couple has two children, Gina and Sam.

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