Helen Daniels Bader, one of Milwaukee’s most beloved and magnanimous benefactors, grew up a child of the Depression behind the soda fountain of her father’s drug store in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She became a devoted wife, loving mother, and successful business woman before embarking on, later in life, a career as a licensed social worker. Specializing in the care of the elderly, she was an early advocate for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, and ahead of her time when it came to envisioning and promoting effective strategies related to their care.
Bader’s legacy is significant. The $100 million Helen Bader Foundation was established in 1991, two years after her death; over the next 24 years, it awarded $250 million in grants designed to enhance the well-being of the impoverished and disadvantaged. That mission continues today at Bader Philanthropies, Inc. Bader’s life – and specifically her belief in the value of social work – is further immortalized through the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.