The Museum of Natural History in New York was a splendid setting for an extraordinary event on Tuesday night when over 1,000 New Yorkers came to pay tribute to a remarkable human being-- by some accounts one of the most remarkable on the planet.
Businessman Charles Feeney was finally accepting an accolade in public from his old school Cornell and the great and the good were present.
He has also given $600 million to Cornell, which was the only school to offer him a scholarship when he graduated high school.
Feeney is the Irish American from New Jersey who has given away all his massive fortune, $5 billion at last count, to charity through his philanthropic foundation Atlantic Philanthropies.
He made his fortune by founding Duty Free Shops placed them in almost every airport in the world, and later selling that company.
Along the way, fiercely proud of his Irish heritage, he played a huge role in the Irish peace process, a contribution that was widely noted on the night.
He played a key role in winning a U.S. visa for Gerry Adams and bringing President Clinton to the Irish peace process. In addition he essentially saved Irish university education by injecting massive funds into research and new programs.
One college president, at Trinity College called him " the man who saved Ireland" for his work
All Irish Americans can be truly proud of this extraordinary human being who exemplifies the best of the Irish.
A recent book by Irish journalist Conor O'Clery 'The Billionaire Who Wasn't" finally blew the whistle on the reclusive New Jersey billionaire and all the extraordinary work he has done over the past decades to help allieviate poverty and suffering on this globe.
He remains the greatest philanthropist of the 20th century, bigger than Rockefeller or Gates and he has been widely credited with forcing a revolution in how giving is managed.
His philosophy is "Giving while Living' and his foundation will be wound down by 2019.
Now both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have followed his example.
Instead of foundations spending small sums every year and retaining their capital, Feeney has made it fashionable to address massive issues head on and spend money now to address them.
The love in the room for Feeney was very evident. This shyest of men got an overwhelming ovation when he stepped to the podium to make his remarks . They were as usually self deprecating and brief.
But he didn't need to say it. He had done it, "by your deeds shall we know you."
I am proud to have known him for the past twenty years as a good and close friend.
He made me even prouder on Tuesday night.
Log in with your social accounts:
Or, log in with your IrishCentral account:
Don't have an account yet? Register now !
Join IrishCentral with your social accounts:
Already have an account ? Log in
Or, sign up for an IrishCentral account below:
Make sure we gathered the correct information from you
You already have an account on IrishCentral! Please confirm you're the owner.
Our new policy requires our users to save a first and last name. Please update your account: