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Isabel and Alfred Bader receive highest alumni award

By Communications Staff

Two of the university’s most loyal alumni, Alfred (Sc'45, Arts'45, MSc'47, LLD'86) and Isabel Bader (LLD’07), plan to visit campus this weekend to accept the Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honour bestowed by the Queen’s University Alumni Association.

“The scale of Alfred and Isabel Bader’s generosity is unprecedented at Queen’s,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “Their dedication and loyalty to this institution has enriched the student learning experience in countless ways, and faculty and students will continue to benefit from their involvement for years to come.”

Alfred and Isabel Bader are being given the award for their significant contributions in the arts, philanthropy and education at Queen’s.

“The commitment of Alfred and Isabel to Queen’s University and its students is absolutely amazing,” says Jess Joss (Artsci’96), President of the QUAA. “Together, they have created so much opportunity for learning and growth at Queen’s. They have helped so many students pursue their academic goals, in the arts and in science, both here on campus, and internationally.”

Alfred Bader fled Vienna for Britain in 1938 following the Nazi attack on synagogues and Jewish homes and businesses. However, his stay was short-lived because British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sent German-speaking refugees to internment camps in Canada and Australia in 1940 under the pretense that they could be “enemy aliens.” Dr. Bader, 16-years-old at the time, was sent to Fort Lennox in Quebec until autumn 1941 when Martin Wolff sponsored his release. Mr. Wolff took Dr. Bader into his home and treated him like his own son.

Dr. Bader arrived at Queen’s on November 15, 1941 to study chemistry. He served as president of the Queen’s Hillel Foundation, and he became a member of the Debating Society. He also joined the recently founded Science’44 student co-op in second year.

He excelled at Queen’s, earning undergraduate degrees in engineering chemistry and history as well as his master’s degree in chemistry. He completed his PhD in organic chemistry at Harvard in 1950 and went on to start his own company after working for the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company in Milwaukee. An astute businessman, Dr. Bader helped build up Aldrich Chemical Company and he founded another company, Alfa Inorganics, in 1962.

Dr. Bader’s philanthropic support for Queen’s has its origins in 1943 when he received the Roberta McCulloch Scholarship. He vowed to establish a similar scholarship if given the opportunity. He followed through on that promise in 1948 when Martin Wolff died and left Dr. Bader $1,000. Dr. Bader used those funds to establish the Martin Wolff Scholarships in Civil Engineering at Queen’s. Since then, Alfred and Isabel Bader have established nearly 20 awards and fellowships for students. Furthermore, they have endowed an unprecedented three chairs at Queen’s – two in art history and one in chemistry —and a curatorship in European art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

The couple’s generosity has also expanded and shaped Queen’s physical campus. They funded the purchase of Herstmonceux, a 15th-century castle located in East Sussex, England. The castle was renovated and now houses the Bader International Study Centre. Isabel Bader’s love of the arts – she co-founded a drama school and costume museum in Sussex -- inspired the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, which will officially open this September.

In addition to his work as a chemist and businessman, Dr. Bader has spent a considerable amount of time researching and collecting works by Dutch and Flemish artists of the Baroque era. His first gift of art to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in 1967 has grown to 130 works including two Rembrandts. The Bader Collection has placed the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at the forefront of university art galleries in Canada, offering students across campus unique experiential learning opportunities.

The Baders intend to visit the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on Thursday and the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Friday. They will receive the Alumni Achievement Award at the QUAA Alumni Awards Gala on Saturday evening.

At this event, the QUAA will also honour other exceptional members of the Queen’s community: alumni, students, and faculty. The mission of the QUAA is to reach out and foster a lifelong association with Queen's, to engage its members in the life and work of the university, and to serve the alumni community in all its diversity.

“These awards allow us to celebrate the achievements of members of the Queen’s family,” says Ms. Joss. “The QUAA believes it is important for these individuals with initiative to get the recognition they deserve and to share their inspiring stories.”