“It was impossible to say no to Harry”, says veteran politician Helen Suzman who joined the Trust in 1975. No stranger to committees and confrontation during her long parliamentary career as the lonely voice of the opposition, she was pleasantly surprised by the absence of strong disagreements in this particular caucus, attributing it to the marvellous and careful way in which applications and enquiries were sifted before reaching the decision-makers. Modestly, she insists her major gift to the Trust was largely functional,  “I pushed the point to give the entire sum requested by an applicant, rather than a small amount so they have to scrounge around to get the rest, which infers you’re worth it but can only have a part. There is no methodology to judge whether one is worth all or part.”

Commenting on her appointment to the Trust, she is characteristically forthright, “Neither Mary Slack nor I were feminist pioneers, but it was quite significant that big business decided to include two inexperienced women.” This from a parliamentarian of some 20 years’ standing! She admits to the Trust’s sincerity and intention to make the right decision within a highly polarised society. While Harry Oppenheimer was known for his liberal views, “We tried to steer clear of aligning with any specific political party, and never disqualified anyone on political grounds. We concentrated on creating opportunity for young black South Africans to advance, not only scholars but also artists and musicians. We supported organisations involved with land reform, for instance, and education, all of considerable value to the broader community.”

It was her firm belief that funders of education have a critical role in the country, and she suggested that the Trust, looking ahead, may consider shifting its focus into the training of educators and extend its engagement with trade or technical schools. “The knowledge that so many scholars and researchers have benefited from the generosity of the Trust has been a source of much satisfaction during my longstanding membership of the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust.”