The Irish American philanthropist Chuck Feeney plans on investing in Trinity College and other higher education institutions as part of his ongoing plan to give his fortune away before he dies. By the end of 2016 Atlantic Philanthropies will have donated $1.3 billion to educational, human rights and other projects in Ireland.
The massive investment was a topic at a panel discussion at the Royal Irish Academy at the launch of the new book “Laying Foundations for Change,” which maps out Feeney’s astounding legacy.
At Trinity the new funds will go towards the Institute of Neuroscience. Between 2001 and 2006 $14.9 million in capital funding in order to help establish the institute, which carries out cross-disciplinary research in physiology, psychiatry and genetics.
Feeney, a native of New Jersey, has been funding projects in Ireland for 25 years. His first grand was to the University of Limerick.
Author of the new book, Colin McCrea, who is also Atlantic’s former senior vice-president, wrote in the book that “Chuck always liked the underdog” and that UL at the time was news “and looked down on by the established universities. Chuck gravitated towards that.”
The first grant Feeney ever made was in 1982 to Cornell University, his alma mater. They have received $1 billion in grants.
From the $7+ billion donated by Feeney $1.7 billion have been gifted to Ireland. Feeney’s philanthropic legacy is so grand that the new book comes in two volumes.
Feeney’s philosophy is to give while living. He believes that investing to capitalize on significant opportunities will solve urgent problems now, and will therefore be less likely to become larger, more entrenched and more expensive challenges later.
Bill Gates has described Feeney as “an icon of global philanthropy” and Mary Robinson also noted that he has done “remarkable things for Ireland, North and South”.
In education alone Feeney’s impact has been enormous.
Boole Library at University College Cork: $15.3 million
Tyndall National Institute: $23.3 million
National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science at NUI Galway: $11.4 million
UL’s Bernal research project: $24.8 million
Christopher G Oechsli Atlantic’s chief executive pointed out that “No buildings bear Chuck’s name though in a couple, someone managed to sneak a plaque on to a wall . . . But Chuck has been clear about this. He has been known to insist that, if a name is to appear somewhere on a plaque or honour roll, it be the name of another donor who was willing to take his challenge to contribute in a big way.”