Bradford—whose research and support were instrumental to the creation of the Foster School’s pioneering Consulting and Business Development Center—is one of only 40 members of the nine-year-old hall of fame, and only the third academic to be so honored. The 2013 inductees were announced May 7 at a ceremony in Chicago.
“The faculty and staff at the Foster School are very pleased that Bill is receiving this well-deserved recognition,” says Jim Jiambalvo, current dean of the Foster School. “He’s an outstanding role model and advocate for diversity in higher education and the work place.”
Bradford earned a BA from Howard University and an MBA and PhD from Ohio State University in 1972. Prior to joining the Foster School, he was on the faculties of New York University, Stanford University, and the University of Maryland Smith School of Management, where he also served as chair of the finance department and associate dean of academic affairs.
He became the first African-American dean of the Foster School in 1994.
By the time of his Foster appointment, Bradford’s prolific research had already established him as one of the foremost experts on minority wealth creation, entrepreneurship and economic development in the context of minority-owned businesses.
His groundbreaking work provided the empirical foundations for the Foster School’s Consulting and Business Development Center, established in 1995 by professor emeritus Thaddeus Spratlen and director Michael Verchot (MBA 1995).
The concept was to deploy student teams to help accelerate the growth of small minority-owned businesses. Bradford became an immediate champion of the effort.
“What was exciting about Bill being appointed dean was that he brought with him 25 years of research and publishing on minority business development,” says Verchot. “He became a catalyst—someone who not only understood and supported what we were trying to do, but who had actually done some of the seminal work that we could refer to.”
When he stepped down as dean in 1999, Bradford was named the Endowed Professor of Business and Economic Development at the Foster School, an honor financed by a group of anonymous donors. That same year, the Center instituted the William D. Bradford Minority Business of the Year Award, the premier honor for minority-owned businesses in the state of Washington, based on revenue size, management quality and commitment to community.
Today Bradford serves on the boards of the Consulting and Business Development Center, Commerce Bank and Junior Achievement of King County. He’s been honored by the American Bankers Association, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Mellon Foundation and Ohio State University.
And he continues to publish actively, shaping public policy and private sector practice. His current research investigates venture capital investment in minority-owned firms. And he’s finding that such firms earn investors a higher average rate of return compared to the general population of venture-funded firms.
Bradford also serves as the faculty director of the Consulting and Business Development Center that he once championed as dean. Stronger than ever in its 18th year, the Center has linked students, faculty and corporate partners with hundreds of minority-owned businesses, generating more than $90 million in new revenue and creating or retaining more than 10,000 jobs across Washington. Now, through a new partnership with the Chase Foundation, the Center is expanding its in-state reach and replicating its model nationally.
“When we began, Bill’s knowledge stretched us to think bigger and further than we might have otherwise,” reflects Verchot. “Had he not been dean when we were just getting started, it’s hard to imagine the Consulting and Business Development Center even existing today.”