Before they were benefactors

We toss their family names around without really thinking about the people behind Cudahy Hall, the Bradley Center and Schroeder Hall.,”

We doze during class in their buildings, cheer on our team in their arena and room in their dorms. But who are they?

Students toss their family names around without really thinking about the people behind Cudahy Hall, the Bradley Center and Schroeder Hall.

The namesakes of these buildings are more than just philanthropists and big university donors. These families shaped the city that we live in today.

It's time for a history lesson. The Tribune dug a little deeper into three families we're all acquainted with but don't really know at all.

Cudahy Hall

The portrait hanging at the bottom of the stairs in Cudahy Hall is of Katherine Reed Cudahy, the mother of the building's benefactor, Michael Cudahy.

Michael Cudahy is the grandson of Patrick Cudahy, who owned a meatpacking business with his brother in the 1880s and founded the city of Cudahy southeast of Milwaukee.

John Cudahy, Michael's father, was a Jack-of-all-trades, working as an attorney, an ambassador and a reporter. One of his claims to fame is his interview with Adolf Hitler in 1941.

Michael was born into his family's wealth and founded a medical equipment company in 1965.

Upon selling his company to General Electric nearly 20 years ago for $1 billion, Michael began dispersing his money.

"I don't believe in leaving all your money to your children," he said in a 1998 interview with Exclusively Yours magazine. "You can easily wreck their lives."

Michael supported community developments, such as Discovery World and the Humphrey IMAX Dome Theater, and he built the YMCA on 91st Street and Brown Deer Road.

Michael, who never attended college, also funded local educational institutions. He built laboratories at the Medical College of Wisconsin and in 1993, the Cudahy building at Marquette.

Schroeder Hall

To the students who live there, Schroeder Hall feels like a 1950s hotel.

No wonder, if you know that Walter Schroeder, the dorm's namesake, owned the largest hotel chain in Wisconsin when the building was constructed in November 1957.

Schroeder was also an insurance salesman and member of the Marquette Board of Governors in the 1950s.

Upon his death, Schroeder left $20 million for various projects all over Milwaukee, including the construction of a library at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

The Walter Schroeder Foundation donated $3.5 million to revamp and rename what is now the Walter Schroeder Health Sciences and Education Complex.

In 1978, that donation was the largest single gift in Marquette history. Schroeder-related donations at that time totaled nearly $6 million.

Bradley Center

The Bradley Center is 20 years old but the Bradley family can be traced back to early 1900s Milwaukee.

Two brothers, Harry and Lynde, co-founded the Allen-Bradley Company in 1903 to build motor controls. The brothers quickly amassed a fortune, according to the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation Web site.

Jane Bradley Pettit, the daughter of Harry Bradley, funded the arena's construction in 1986 and called it a gift to the people of Wisconsin.

"The Bradley Center is the only major, public assembly facility in North America with construction underwritten through the philanthropy of a single family," the center's Web site states.

The foundation's Web site also states that since 1985, it has granted $530 million to various organizations and projects.

Note: Marquette University Archives and the Milwaukee County Historical Society assisted in the research for this article.