C. Flemming Heilmann, Esq. (Downing 1954)
"Throughout my itinerant childhood, I was exposed to many different cultures, religions, and philosophies, as my father traversed the globe working in the plantation business to support my family. I was born of Danish parents in Penang, Malaysia and spent the first five years of my life there, before being evacuated to Australia as a refugee during World War II. It was there, at the end of the war, whilst on the opposite side of the world at Geelong Grammar School in Victoria that I first learnt of Cambridge, and of Downing College. The Headmaster suggested that the College might be a good fit for my older brother, John, as we moved back home to Europe. After finishing school in Norfolk, John went up to Downing in 1949 and I followed five years later. I enjoyed the privilege of being taught by some of the most distinguished lawyers of the time and am ever grateful for the education and lifetime experience afforded me as an undergraduate. There is a wonderful sense of boundless opportunity at Cambridge, so every interest in any given subject — from law to tiddlywinks and everything in between-can be pursued.
When I graduated, unable to scrape together the funds for a barrister's pupilage, I embarked on a career in the packaging industry, working for Metal Box Company, primarily in South Africa, and then joining an associated company, Continental Can Company, in the US. I eventually left the corporate world to work with private equity companies in a couple of turnaround projects for the remainder of my career.
Although I have never been involved in politics directly, anything important I have tried to do in my life has been guided by some of my core political beliefs and goals: equality of access to education, equal treatment before the law, and adequate access to healthcare. These principles have also influenced our philanthropic giving, and the decision my wife, Judy, and I took to include Downing and Cambridge in our estate plans.
Judy and I believe that people who have made enough progress in life to have the capacity to give back should do so. In retirement, we wanted to have some secure, tax-protected cash flow for ourselves during our lifetimes, yet leave something that could eventually be of benefit to institutions and causes we care about most, so we set up a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT). After the second of us dies, 30% of the remainder of the trust will go to Cambridge in America for the benefit of Downing College. We have expressed a preference that the gift be used to support Downing's student accommodation needs at the time, or the College endowment. However, we have encouraged our son, Per, who is also an alumnus of Downing College and a trustee of our CRUT, to consult the fellowship of the College regarding their areas of greatest need at the time, and thus decide upon the most effective use of our gift. Ultimately we really want the money to go wherever it will benefit the College most."