Julius Fleichman is 86, legally blind and has a passion for sky diving. He recently called the Guinness Book of World Records because he wants to break a record of any kind.
But his work at GW may be the most spectacular thing about him. He has donated nearly $500,000 since June 2006 and there is still more to come.
The World War II vet and one-time real estate entrepreneur plans on establishing a scholarship within each school at GW, hoping that his name will soon become synonymous with the University’s.
Fleischman endows each gift in honor of a loved one in the adventurous 86-year-old’s life. But it is more than simply being able to perpetuate a name that encourages Fleischman to keep giving.
“I feel it is a tribute to them and understanding on my part, to let them know that I haven’t forgotten them, that they are in my heart,” said Fleischman. “I am doing something for GW, but I am also doing something for myself. This way, I can think about them often.”
In memory of his father, Joseph, Fleischman gave $100,000 to the Business School’s real estate program, and in memory of his mother, Frieda Kobernick, he gave $50,000 towards Judaic studies at GW. Other donations of $50,000 each were made for a scholarship in memory of close friend Christine Waldvogel, endowments for animal law at the Law School in memory of two of his dogs, and to the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Fleischman developed a flare for adventure as a forward observer for the U.S. Army during World War II, which he still maintains today – going tandem skydiving last year at 85-years old. Although it took several months to find a company willing to take an 85 year old, legally blind man up in the sky, he never gave up his goal of being able to jump out of a plane. Fleischman vows to continue skydiving each year and thinks that “everyone should do it.”
Also an avid skier and scuba diver, Fleischman — who has been battling macular degeneration for almost six years – lives for challenges.
“People with handicaps accept it and I don’t want to,” Fleischman said. “They go at a demure pace. I’m not like that. I just won’t stop! I just won’t stop!”
Sharon Block, senior executive director of development and University programs, has worked closely with Fleischman over the years. She described Fleischman as an “unusual man” with a “wonderful attitude towards life.”
“By definition, he stands out as generous at heart . he’s not just generous with his money,” Block said.
Block serves as the liaison between Fleischman and GW, and believes that it is partially the connection between the two that has encouraged Fleischman to be a continual donor.
Having only attended one semester at GW in a real estate course, Fleischman is not considered an alumnus of the University. But to Fleischman, it was the warm welcome that he received from Block and her colleagues that sparked his affection for the school.
Fleischman’s most recent donation of a little over $100,000 equipped two rooms in the Gelman Library with technology for students that are visually impaired. These rooms were opened last month.
“It gives me a sense of well-being that I can help young people,” he said.
Fleischman, with Block’s assistance, has not yet decided which school will receive the next donation, but Fleischman said that it is his “goal and ambition” to donate in some way to every aspect of GW and he “(intends) to stay around long enough to do it, and then some.”