Charles “Chuck” Feeney was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey during the Great Depression. His Irish-American parents worked hard to make a good life for their family; his father as an insurance underwriter, his mother a hospital nurse.
Chuck Feeney was an entrepreneur from an early age – selling Christmas cards door-to-door and teaming with a friend to shovel sidewalks during snowstorms. After high school, Chuck enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, serving in Signals Intelligence in Japan during the Korean War. He took advantage of the GI Bill to attend Cornell University, becoming the first member of his family to go to college. Upon graduation, Chuck started a business selling goods to American troops stationed in Europe that eventually became Duty Free Shoppers, the world’s largest luxury goods retailer.
Chuck Feeney believes fervently that people who have been fortunate to amass great wealth should use their wealth for a greater good. He established The Atlantic Philanthropies in 1982, which have since made grants totaling more than $7 billion—focused on promoting education, health, peace, reconciliation and human dignity—primarily in Australia, Bermuda, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Viet Nam. In the mid-1980s, Chuck quietly transferred virtually all of his assets to The Atlantic Philanthropies; for the first half of Atlantic’s history, its grantmaking was done anonymously.
Known for his frugality, Chuck Feeney owns neither a home nor a car and wears a $15 watch.
Accelerating Research, Health Care and Higher Education
Chuck Feeney makes big investments to help solve today’s urgent problems. Atlantic’s Founding Chairman grants range from kick-starting universities across Ireland that propelled Ireland’s knowledge economy to seeding the creation of Cornell NYC Tech that will be a global magnet for tech talent and entrepreneurship.
Giving While Living
In his biography, The Billionaire Who Wasn’t, Mr. Feeney said, “I had one idea that never changed in my mind—that you should use your wealth to help people.”
Chuck Feeney’s philosophy of Giving While Living was an inspiration behind the Giving Pledge, an initiative created by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to persuade many of the world’s wealthiest people to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.
- Giving While Living
- Founding Chairman Grants
- Warren Buffett Honors His Hero, the Billionaire Who Secretly Gave It All Away, Forbes, 18 June 2014
- Chuck Feeney: The Billionaire Who Is Trying To Go Broke, Forbes, 18 September 2012
- Atlantic's Founding Chairman Chuck Feeney Joins the Giving Pledge, 22 February 2011