Leaving a Legacy Gift

Bernard Robertson (St Catharine’s 1962)

Bernard RobertsonI have no doubt that my time at Cambridge was the greatest factor in whatever success I’ve enjoyed in both my career and my life. I entered St Catharine’s in 1962 as a shy youth of very modest means and with little life experience other than a gap year in the machine tool industry, and I emerged in 1965 as a fairly confident young man with a Cambridge degree in engineering and almost unlimited opportunities. The courses were stimulating and challenging, and I was privileged to be tutored by the legendary Dudley “Freddie” Robinson.

The multi-disciplinary nature of College life meant that many of my friends were not engineers, and in 1963, two geographers, an english major, and I drove an old Land Rover to Egypt in the long vacation.

While most of my time at Cambridge was spent on lectures and study (I felt driven to keep up, having “lost” a year in industry), I also taught driving and ran training camps for local youth in the Officers’ Training Corps. I spent the second long vacation working as an engineer in Toronto. All of these activities were encouraged and enabled by the College.

Through the University Appointments Board, I met and joined the British subsidiary of Chrysler Corporation upon graduation, who immediately sent me to Chrysler Institute in the USA. I spent my entire 38-year career with Chrysler, including three years back in the UK, and retired from DaimlerChrysler as Senior VP of Engineering and General Manager of Jeep and Truck Operations in December 2003.

Bernard Robertson during graduation

Bernard Robertson during graduation, July 1965

In the course of earning two Master’s degrees in the USA (MAE & MBA), I had the opportunity to compare the Cambridge University experience with three major universities in the USA. While I have great respect for those US institutions, it reinforced my belief that Cambridge is in a class of its own, and I was extremely fortunate to have experienced it.

It was then that I started supporting the University and St Catharine’s via Cambridge in America. My emphasis has been primarily on assisting students of modest means, via bursaries and scholarships, and this has become even more important with the recent changes in UK Government policy and the introduction of US-style student debt.

For many of us, particularly as we become ‘fourth-quartilers’ as one of my closest Cambridge friends puts it, planned giving is typically the greatest and ultimately last opportunity we have to make a difference, so I had no doubt that one of my two charitable legacy gifts should be to Cambridge in America for the benefit of St Catharine’s.

I encourage any graduates and friends of Cambridge who have benefited from this unsurpassed educational experience and witnessed the prestige that a Cambridge degree seems to bestow anywhere in the world, to join me in making a legacy gift to help ensure the continued vitality and growth of this remarkable institution.