Michael S. Joyce, RIP

America lost one of her great conservative philanthropists last Friday, February 24, when Michael Joyce died at the age of 63 after a long battle with liver illness.

Joyce was chief executive officer of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, Wis. For more than 15 years he distributed millions of dollars to neoconservative and conservative causes. According to the Bradley Foundation, Joyce was named "’the godfather of modern philanthropy’ by noted writer Irving Kristol."

Following Joyce’s announcement in 2001 that he was retiring from Bradley, Allen Taylor, the foundation’s then-board chairman, spoke of Mr. Joyce’s "extraordinary contributions to the foundation and to the world of philanthropy" and said, "He built a start-up into a nationally respected institution and leaves a durable record of remarkable accomplishment. His work will be remembered with pride, not only in Milwaukee and Wisconsin but throughout the nation."

Joyce will be best remembered by conservatives for his extensive work on two major causes: welfare reform and school choice. His efforts to overhaul welfare helped create the environment that spawned the monumental changes in the federal welfare system in 1996. And Joyce’s work on school choice helped bring about today’s voucher movement and the surge in charter-schools.

Because of these efforts, when Joyce left the foundation, former Senior Vice President William Schambra said, "Mike Joyce and the grant-making that the Bradley Foundation pursued under his leadership played indispensable roles in restoring to national public policy discourse the notion that citizens themselves are capable of running their lives through their own voluntary, civic associations, without the benevolent guidance of bureaucratic experts."

Praising Joyce’s lifelong efforts, the Wall Street Journal editorialized last week that "Michael Joyce was a compassionate conservative before it was fashionable."