Our founder, Charles F. Feeney, has been known to tell people to “think big.” It’s not just an idea; his life story is one of bold moves that have had big impact. Two years after establishing the Atlantic Foundation – the first and largest of The Atlantic Philanthropies – in 1982 in Bermuda, Chuck transferred virtually all of the Feeney assets in Duty Free Shoppers to the Atlantic Foundation, irrevocably and anonymously. That’s big! His commitment to philanthropy has enabled all that Atlantic, together with our grantees, has done over the past 30 years – and all that we will continue to do until we complete our grantmaking by 2016 and close our doors by 2020.
It is our mission that Chuck’s gift and Atlantic’s work inspire others to take a Giving While Living approach to their own philanthropy. We will offer the lessons we've learned and hope they can help inform and improve future efforts to bring about increased opportunities and lasting change in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people.
I joined Atlantic as President and CEO in September 2011, but I have a long history with the foundation, the General Atlantic group businesses that generated the endowment, and with Chuck. Since returning to Atlantic, my goal has been to conclude our work in ways that do justice to Chuck and his values and to leverage the three decades of Atlantic’s grantmaking experience to maximum effect.
As it was put in a recent interview in Forbes magazine, Chuck is a “show me” not “tell me” person. He likes to “kick the tires.” He has always expected exceptional effort and pushed for exceptional results: “What have we got to show for it?” is a common challenge that Chuck poses to us. Have we made good use of the money? Can our grantees make a difference – a lasting difference? Our work at Atlantic is guided by these exhortations – and our staff translates them into our grantmaking efforts on a daily basis.
The greatest reward of my job is being able to step away from the office and visit the sites where exceptional people do transformative work. I get to kick the tires and see how Atlantic’s grants, through the efforts of committed people, translate into meaningful advancements in opportunity, equity and human dignity. In that work, I see not only the values and determination of our founder and staff, but also the focus and dedication of our grantees.