Businessman, philanthropist Alfred Bader dies at 94

Bader co-founded Aldrich Chemical Co.

Alfred and Isabel Bader (Photo: Bader Philanthropies)

Milwaukee businessman and philanthropist Alfred Bader died Sunday at the age of 94.

Alfred and Isabel Bader (Photo: Bader Philanthropies)

Bader co-founded the Aldrich Chemical Co. in 1951. The company merged in 1975 with Sigma International Ltd., forming Sigma-Aldrich Corp. Today, the company is owned by global pharmaceutical corporation Merck KGaA.

He is survived by his wife, Isabel, sons David and Daniel, and seven grandchildren. Daniel Bader is president and chief executive officer of Bader Philanthropies, a Milwaukee-based foundation that encompasses the philanthropic fund of Alfred Bader’s first wife, the late Helen Daniels, and the fund of Isabel and Alfred.

Bader Philanthropies supports a variety of initiatives in Milwaukee, including programs related to Alzheimer’s and aging, youth education, workforce development, and community improvement. The foundation has granted more than $265 million and has given more than 6,000 grants to nonprofits in 10 different countries since 1992.

Bader was also a longtime supporter of his alma mater, Queen’s University in Ontario. In 1993, he purchased a 15th-century castle in England and donated it to the university. It serves as an international study center for students.

“During his visits to campus with his beloved wife, Isabel, Alfred delighted in meeting scholars, students and other friends, to exchange ideas and to encourage them in their fields of study,” Daniel Woolf, principal and vice chancellor of Queen’s University, said in a statement. “Alfred’s gifts to Queen’s, including the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts and an unparalleled collection of Old Master paintings, stand as a testament to the splendid breadth of his vision and generosity.”

An art collector, Bader also established an arts gallery, Alfred Bader Fine Arts, in Milwaukee with business partner Marvin Klitsner in 1961.

He was born in 1924 in Vienna, Austria. As a teen in the late 1930s, Bader left Austria for England amid the growing Nazi threat. He was later sent to a Canadian internment camp for European refugees.

Bader wrote two autobiographies: “Adventures of a Chemist Collector,” published in 1995, and “Further Adventures of a Chemist Collector,” published in 2008.

Funeral services were held Tuesday.

Get our email updates

Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.