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US philanthropist’s transformative impact on University of Limerick

Resource type: News

Limerick Post | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey and Dr Chuck Feeney’s son, Patrick Feeney, with one of the signs on the Feeney Way

THE main thoroughfare on the University of Limerick campus has been renamed ‘Feeney Way’ to honour the ‘transformative impact’ philanthropist Dr Chuck Feeney has had on the university’s evolution.

From left, Chuck Feeney, Frank H.T. Rhodes and Ed Walsh, founding president of the University of Limerick in Ireland, in 1987. Two years later the University of Limerick was founded, thus ending a campaign that began in the 1840s.

The Irish American entrepreneur’s legacy and his ‘giving while living’ philosophy was highlighted a naming ceremony at UL’s Glucksman Library today (Thursday).

Two foundation stones were placed at each end of Feeney Way, which starts at the front gates of UL and runs to the East Gate, with new signage at various locations on the main avenue on the campus.

A native of New Jersey, Chuck Feeney pioneered the concept of duty-free shopping in the 1960s and gave more than €1.5 billion to projects in Ireland through his Atlantic Philanthropies organisation.

The organisation was wound up in 2017 after he reached his ‘life-long ambition’ to give away his fortune of €7.6 billion.

An estimated €150 million was gifted to the UL Foundation, which has been transformational to the campus, the city and wider region.

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey said the university’s status as centre for global research would not have been possible without Chuck Feeney’s support.

“His is an exceptional story of giving – around €8 billion towards philanthropy, for education, youth, health, and human rights globally.

“As the son of Irish American parents, maybe it is no surprise that over €1 billion of philanthropic support went to Ireland, and UL has been one of the main beneficiaries. At its simplest, this University campus, over 18,000 students and 2,000 staff would not have been possible were it not for Chuck Feeney’s generosity.

“The new Feeney Way is more than a thoroughfare, it is a philosophy. It is more than a road, it is a story. That story and Chuck’s generosity, his practice of giving while living has been the key catalyst influencing the development of the wonderful campus we see around us today and he had a transformative impact on UL,” Professor Mey added.

UL’s founding  president Dr Ed Walsh said that Chuck Feeney had reached the stage in his life where he discovered that wealth and happiness were not necessarily associated with each other and particularly with the next generation.

Feeney (seated) at the Limerick Music Hall, August 2012.

“So, after some deep consideration he decided to give it all away. He often mentioned there are no pockets in a shroud – so giving while living was a win win, and of course he inspired others such as Bill Gates and the Collison brothers of Stripe.

“The fact that he stimulated some of the wealthiest people in the world to do as he did and give while living will be seen as one of the most important things he did,” Dr Walsh added.

The physical impact of Chuck Feeney’s support for UL can be seen across the Castletroy campus at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, the UL Foundation Building housing the University Concert Hall and the UL School of Medicine.

More recently, Dr Feeney’s philantrophy aided the development of the Bernal Institute which has helped UL attract a team of world-leading materials scientists and engineers to drive its research strengths to new heights.

In 2012, UL joined with the other Irish universities to honour the US philanthropist with an honorary doctorate, the first time such an honour had been conferred jointly by the various institutions.

Dr Feeney’s son Patrick and his biographer Conor O’Clery – attending on the 91-year-old’s behalf – attended today’s event honouring The Atlantic Philanthropies founder and his contribution to the University.

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The University of Limerick is an Atlantic grantee. 

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