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World’s greatest Irishman honoured

Resource type: News

The Irish Daily Star |

Tributes to billionaire who’s giving away bis fortune THE MUSEUM of Natural History in New York was a splendid setting for an extraordinary event on Tuesday night as more than 1,000 people paid tribute to one of the most remarkable human beings on the planet.

Businessman Charles Feeney was finally accepting an accolade in public from his old college Cornell, and the great and the good were present.

He has given $US600 million (EUR498m) to Cornell — the only college to offer him a scholarship after high school.

The Irish-American from New Jersey has given away all his massive fortune — $5 billion (EUR03bn)at the last count – to charity through his foundation Atlantic Philanthropies. He made his fortune by placing duty-free shops in almost every airport in the world, and later sold the company.

Fiercely proud of his Irish heritage, he played a huge role in the Irish peace process, a contribution widely noted on the night.

He played a key role in winning a US visa for Gerry Adams and bringing President Bill Clinton to the peace process. And he essentially saved Irish university education by injecting massive funds into research and new programmes.

One college president — at Trinity — called him “the man who saved Ireland”.

All Irish-Americans can be truly proud of this extraordinary human being who exemplifies the best of the Irish. A recent book by Conor O’Clery — The

Billionaire Who Wasn’t — revealed all his extra-ordinary work in the past decades to help alleviate poverty and suffering.

He remains the greatest philanthropist of the 20th Century — bigger than Rockefeller or Bill Gates — and he has been widely credited with a revolution in how giving is managed. His philosophy is “Giving while Living”, and his foundation will (be wound down by 2019.


Now Gates and Warren Buffett have followed his example.

This shyest of men got an overwhelming ovation when he stepped to the podium on Tuesday. I am proud to have known him for the past 20 years as a good and close friend.

He made me even prouder on Tuesday.


Article appeared in 10 June 2010 The Irish Daily Star. Online version currently not available. 

For related article:

Cornell honors philanthropic icon Chuck Feeney ’56

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