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Remembering Chuck Feeney

Photo of Chuck Feeney

Charles Francis Feeney
1931 – 2023

Chuck Feeney’s passion and generosity touched the lives of millions of people around the world. The Atlantic community mourns the loss of our founder, who devoted his entire personal fortune to Giving While Living philanthropy around the world.

Here are some of the messages and thoughts that people have shared about Chuck. To share your own reflections, email



Incredible Life of Purpose

I am saddened to share the news that our firm’s founder, Chuck Feeney, has passed away at the age of 92. In a career spanning more than 50 years, Chuck reshaped the landscape for entrepreneurs and reimagined philanthropy around his personal credo of “Giving While Living.” He is survived by his wife Helga and five children, and by the profound impact that he had on so many people and institutions around the world, including our firm.

Chuck was a self-starter, born into a working-class family during the Great Depression. He became the first member of his family to go to college and started Duty Free Shoppers with little capital and lots of determination. He had a growth mindset and was eager to scale his business to capitalize on the growth in global travel.

Chuck’s early success with Duty Free Shoppers left him in a position to retire young and live a life of comfort. Instead, he embraced an almost ascetic devotion to helping other entrepreneurs and giving away his fortune to help others, with no desire for personal attention or plaudits. Forbes famously called him “The James Bond of Philanthropy.” Warren Buffet and Bill Gates called him their hero. To us at General Atlantic, he was “Chuck” – our founder who was himself an entrepreneur and embedded philanthropy into our culture.

It strikes me, in this moment of reflection on his life, just how fortunate we were that Chuck founded General Atlantic in 1980. Fortunate that he pulled together an all-star team that started with Steve Denning and, soon after, Dave Hodgson, who would both become critical leaders for our firm over the next four decades. Fortunate that he gave us the license and latitude to grow and invest in novel ways, based on our expertise and intuition, as opposed to what other investors were doing at the time. And fortunate that he embodied the very type of leader that to this day we seek to identify and support.

Steve Denning tells the story of a first meeting where Chuck boldly stated that he wanted to put up $50 million to start an investment firm “to help entrepreneurs build great companies.” Chuck was always guided by this entrepreneurial spirit and said that he could not have succeeded without the help of others. Chuck firmly believed that the purpose of wealth is “to improve the human condition.” He saw the bigger picture: by creating an investment platform to support growing companies, he could magnify the wealth he had – and give it all back over his lifetime.

Following this conversation, and two years after General Atlantic was founded, Chuck informed us that he had given away 99 percent of his wealth to a foundation that he had created: The Atlantic Philanthropies. The foundation would address the world’s most pressing issues, and General Atlantic would serve as the direct investment arm to grow its capital base. Chuck entrusted the General Atlantic leadership team with running the firm but often met with our entrepreneurs; he said it was the part of the business that gave him the most joy.

For three decades, General Atlantic delivered returns to The Atlantic Philanthropies that were used to support and launch hundreds of organizations dedicated to education, global health, human rights, and more. Three years ago, The Atlantic Philanthropies officially closed its doors, having given away roughly $9 billion, essentially Chuck’s entire net worth.
Chuck also inspired our firm’s commitment to philanthropy. The General Atlantic Foundation supports the communities in which we operate and the causes that are important to our people. The majority of our employees donate personal funds and time to nonprofit organizations, and I know many of you chose to work at General Atlantic because of the example Chuck set – another incredible legacy.

Please join me in remembering and honoring Chuck and his incredible life of purpose. Chuck’s inspiration to the firm and future generations will surely live on.

- Bill Ford, General Atlantic Chairman and CEO

Power, Generosity, and Kindness

We were very sorry to hear of the death of Mr. Chuck Feeney, Founding Chairman of The Atlantic Philanthropies, who had great contributions to the development of Hue Central Hospital. This is a big loss for you and all near and dear to you and for us as well. We never forgot his great sentiments and what he had done for the Hue Central Hospital. We were deeply impressed by his power, generosity and kindness. Now, he passed away, but as always, his image is in our mind. We would like to extend our most sincere condolences to all members of Mr. Chuck Feeney's family and The Atlantic Philanthropies.

- Professor Pham Nhu Hiep, MD, Ph.D, Hue Central Hospital

A Deep and Lasting Effect

May I, as President of Ireland, join with all those who have paid tribute to the passing of a great friend of Ireland and its people, the late Chuck Feeney.

So much of what has been achieved in Irish third level education owes so much to his generous gifts to so many institutions. Through his selfless commitment to so many important causes, Chuck Feeney’s work was founded on the core principles of inclusivity, participation and fairness. He has left a deep and lasting effect on the lives of so many people in our country, providing opportunities for participation and improving conditions within our society.

Through the Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation, his donations to education in Ireland in particular helped empower children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, thus playing an innovative role in the shaping of the more equal and just Ireland of today.

It is important too that we recognise the contribution made by Chuck Feeney in the long journey towards peace and reconciliation on our island. The Irish people will remain deeply appreciative of his quiet and generous work in moving the process forward, while also providing funding for important reconciliation and regeneration projects.

I had the honour of presenting Chuck Feeney, who remained proud of his Fermanagh roots, with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award in 2012, in recognition of his extraordinary commitment to the education sector and to the wider spheres of research and civil society throughout the island of Ireland.

I also fondly recall meeting with him during my official visit to the West Coast of the United States in October 2015, where we joined in paying tribute at the Martin Luther King Civic Centre to those Irish students who tragically lost their lives in the Berkeley tragedy.

May I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Helga, to his children and extended family, and to all his many friends and colleagues.

- Michael D. Higgins, President, Republic of Ireland

Championed Equality

Saddened to hear of the death of Chuck Feeney.

Through Atlantic Philanthropies, he contributed to peace and reconciliation in Ireland, championed equality and improved third-level education dramatically. He also helped to change attitudes to the LGBT community.

- Leo Varadkar, Taoiseac, Republic of Ireland

Generous, Selfless, Strategic

An amazing privilege to have worked with someone so focused on changing the world for the better. Generous, selfless, strategic, trusting, innovative & always up for a risk. Thank you Chuck Feeney for all you did to change lives. I doubt we’ll see another quite like you.

- Martin O'Brien, Director of the Social Change Initiatve, former Vice President of the Atlantic Philanthropies

One of the Most Giving of Men

I am sure I speak on behalf of the entire University of Limerick community past and present in expressing our sorrow at the loss of one of the most giving of men in Chuck Feeney. I was fortunate to meet him and his wife Helga as recently as March in San Francisco and it was a privilege to spend some time with him. I want to offer my sympathy on behalf of the institution to his family and to celebrate a truly extraordinary legacy that he leaves behind as an inspiration to all. Chuck Feeney’s giving while living philosophy is at its heart 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, the University of Limerick campus, over 18,000 students and 2,000 staff would not have been possible were it not for Chuck Feeney’s generosity. We wanted to acknowledge Chuck with the Feeney Way dedication; for one, because we are hugely appreciative for what he has done for UL, this region and for Ireland and this was ultimately where his ‘Giving While Living’ started. I know we join with a huge community of colleagues in education, health, youth support and human rights organisations all over the world in humble thanks to an incredible man.

- Professor Kerstin Mey, University of Limerick President

A Pioneer

Deeply saddened to learn of the death of Chuck Feeney.

Through Atlantic Philanthropies, Chuck’s vision, generosity and selfless leadership transformed the lives of people on the island of Ireland, north and south, young and old, through investment in education and community. It was a great honour to work with him, transforming Ireland’s third level research capacity.

He was a pioneer in the world of philanthropy.

Ní bheidh do leithéad arís ann.

- Micheál Martin, Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Republic of Ireland

One of the Most Remarkable Men I Have Ever Met

I am deeply saddened at the news of the death of my good friend Chuck Feeney. I want to extend my sincerest condolences and solidarity to Helga his wife and the Feeney family. Chuck was an extraordinary human being whose kindness and vision brought hope and joy to millions. Through Atlantic Philanthropies he gave away billions to those working in the field of civil liberties, health, community development and education. Along with the late Bill Flynn, Bruce Morrison, Joe Jamison, Chuck Feeney and Niall O’Dowd, he was part of the Connolly House group which played a pivotal role in creating the conditions for the peace process. In the decades since then Chuck has remained steadfast and committed to the Irish peace process ever since. [Chuck Feeney] was one of the most remarkable men I have ever met. [He was a] very private who always shunned the spotlight and who was totally committed to our efforts to build peace. Chuck’s philosophy was straightforward – if you give while living you get to see the results. It’s about making real and tangible change in peoples’ lives. Chuck’s efforts, his generosity and solidarity over many years, touched many millions and will continue to do so into the future. Tá sé ar slí na fírinne anois.

- Gerry Adams, former President, Sinn Féin

Breathtaking Impact

Chuck Feeney, in his life and in his lasting legacy, set an inspirational standard of what it means to be a Cornellian. His life’s mission of consequential philanthropy, the breathtaking impact of his giving to his alma mater, and the way his quiet example has motivated so many others, has been immeasurably transformative to Cornell and to Cornellians. I am heartened by the fact that Chuck – who famously never sought recognition for his generosity – had recently granted Cornell’s wish to express our appreciation for him and celebrate his impact and vision by naming main thoroughfares on our Ithaca and Cornell Tech campuses in his honor.

- Martha E. Pollack, President, Cornell University

We Shall Not See His Like Again

At this time of great sadness, I wanted to extend deepest sympathies from the University of Galway community to Helga, Chuck’s family, and to you and your team at The Atlantic Philanthropies.
Chuck was a true visionary leader, inspiring, empowering and enabling generations of students and academics through generous, philanthropic investments. His legacy is evident right across our campus.
Our engagement with The Atlantic Philanthropies was extensive, over a long period of time, through Galway University Foundation from the 1990s.

Our University has changed over time, in large part due to the generous support of Atlantic Philanthropies. The impact of Chuck Feeney’s vision is therefore ever-present here. The impact that he made to and for our community is immeasurable and, in turn, that investment in people has made a difference here in Galway, on the island of Ireland and internationally. Our campus itself is living testament to Chuck Feeney’s strong belief that “Good buildings for good minds can make a big difference in the lives of a lot of people.”

He leaves a remarkable legacy and one that has provided, and will enable, educational and research opportunities for many years to come.

These acts and the determination to make a difference were recognised in September 2012 when our University, together with the universities of Ireland, North and South, conferred an honorary Doctorate of Laws (LLD) on Dr Feeney. It was symbolic of the respect and high esteem with which Dr Feeney is held in, for his incredible support for Irish universities and our young people over many long years.

The Irish saying is never more true; Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann, we shall not see his like again. We will keep you all in our thoughts over the coming weeks, months and, no doubt, years.

Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam.

- Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President, University of Galway

A True Saint

Chuck Feeney was a remarkable man leading the cause of giving while living. A remarkable humble individual and approachable when he resided in Brisbane his work will never be forgotten. The world has lost a true saint.

- Soren Andersen

An Exceptionally Good Man

🌈Chuck, that exceptionally good man, has not ceased to exist; his good deeds, karma, take him further, into higher realms of existence, into divine worlds; dear Chuck will surely be reborn as a deity, in one of the many divine worlds💓

- Enver Beganovic

Unparalleled Generosity

Chuck Feeney’s extraordinary and transformative contribution to DCU, to Irish higher education and to Ireland as a whole simply cannot be overstated. His unparalleled generosity transformed the landscape of our campuses and his legacy will continue to benefit our students and our academic community for decades to come. By choosing to donate his wealth during his lifetime, Mr Feeney not merely demonstrated the power of giving but set an example which he hoped others would copy. By living his values, he helped to create a brighter future and a better society for the people of Ireland, north and south. On behalf of the DCU community, I wish to express my sincerest condolences to his family, and our deepest gratitude for his immense generosity during his lifetime.”

- Professor Daire Keogh, President, Dublin City University

Legacy of Kindness

I work for a non-profit organization and have for 32 years. We all can appreciate the kindness in the heart of any individual such as Mr. Feeney that shares their wealth with non-profit entities. I want to thank Mr. Feeney on behalf of those whom he did support. Your legacy of kindness will not be forgotten. You have touched the hearts of so many.

- Pamela Peek, Boys & Girls Club of Baldwin and Jones Counties. Inc.

Job done! Well done!

Chuck Feeney’s commitment to his extraordinary philanthropic mission was absolute – which I came to learn as one of his longtime assistants. For some three decades, Chuck continually engaged with The Atlantic Philanthropies and its grantmaking, while also working to maximise the organisation’s endowment through successful commercial ventures. All hard work at the forefront, even long after he might otherwise have opted for a more comfortable life. Early morning travel, business discussions over morning coffee, full days of meetings, multiple subject areas, different geographies – these were routine. Chuck’s keen intellect demanded this high level of activity and initiative: he also relished the mix. Chuck was highly disciplined, a master at making things happen, and above all, he loved engaging with people. He never seemed more satisfied than in seeing good work done that would benefit others, and he was deeply grateful to those who brought his philanthropic vision to life. It is clear that not only will the impact of Chuck’s chosen path live on in tangible life improvements for many, it will also forever serve as example and inspiration for all. So, for our final morning meeting, my report would be, simply: Chuck, Job done! Well done! And for me, it has been a privilege to participate in your journey. May you rest in peace.

- James Downey, Former Director of General Atlantic Ltd. and Assistant to the Founding Chairman

Kind Motivation

I am fortunate to serve as Acting Director of the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR), a research entity within The University of Queensland, Australia. I recognise that our University Vice Chancellor will separately write to you, but I felt important to do so on behalf of UQCCR

UQCCR was established thanks to the vision of Chuck and Helga Feeney and their kind motivation provided to The University of Queensland and the Queensland State Government to facilitate the building of UQCCR. Built in 2007 and opened in 2008 at a build cost of AUD$70m, this research centre has been responsible for the development of many high quality research careers as well as significant research and clinical impacts. Our current themes in particular continue to benefit from this vision meaning that Cancer, Brain Neurology and Mental Health, Fertility and Infectious Diseases are areas that have all benefitted from Chuck and Helga’s generosity.

On behalf of all those who have been provided opportunities that may not otherwise have been available through UQCCR, I thank Chuck and Helga.

In November we celebrated our 15-year anniversary and we look forward to continuing to recognise Chuck and Helga Feeney.

- Professor Jason Roberts, University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, The University of Queensland

Chuck's Legacy Will Endure for Generations to Come

It was with deep sadness that I learned of the passing of Chuck Feeney at the age of 92.
Chuck Feeney's extraordinary vision, courage, humility, and unwavering commitment to advancing humanity through research have left an indelible mark on the world, building educational and research capacity, and driving social change such as the peace process in Northern Ireland. His leadership transformed Australia into a center for groundbreaking research, leading to world-class discoveries. His first investment in Australia was the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at the University of Queensland.
Chuck's legacy will endure for generations to come. His positive, can-do attitude and ambitious dreams encouraged both state and federal governments to collaborate in pursuing a shared vision for a brighter future, not only for Australia but for the entire world. Importantly, his vision of “giving while living” inspired others to create change through philanthropy. Ever humble, Chuck never wanted his name associated with his philanthropy, and due to the secrecy of his giving he was often referred to as the James Bond of philanthropy.
I had the distinct honour of meeting with Chuck and Helga in San Francisco three weeks ago to celebrate their remarkable contributions to UQ. I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to express our gratitude in person, and as an Irish person, to thank him for his contribution the peace process in Ireland. Through our work in IMB we are fortunate to carry on Chuck's legacy. I encourage everyone to take a moment and reflect on his inspirational actions, his profound impact, and the gifts he gave to all of us.

- Professor Ian Henderson, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, The University of Queensland

The Inspiration and The Confession in Memory of ‘A Man of Timeless Giving’

Chuck, Charles Frances, CFF or Mr Feeney – oh how you influenced our orbits and how sad we are. The rarity of worldliness that once you followed in the shadows, experienced humanity in community, from the bosom of the Burren to the Sands of the Gold Coast. The sophistication of his intellect was so intense that he could move forward in time to see opportunities that best served us all. We all know the glances that could convey layers of meaning or the tapestry of stories that told a tale - to deploy your best foot forward with minimal fussiness. He was the man that was more ‘Normal than Normal’, deep down this was the trait that was in many ways incomprehensible but was the law of attraction that drew you in. One of my kindest memories is when Seamus Heaney, came into the San Francisco office not long after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Chuck called me into the boardroom to sit with Seamus while he went off to check on something – I was in awe that I got to meet a Nobel Laureate and an Irish one at that. Seamus asked me why he was there, and I replied that we should let the meeting flow as at some point we may find a relevance. But really it was Chuck giving me the gift of that memory, as much as sometimes he privately regaled in having some Irishness around him.

So in gratitude to Chuck – a poem for The Inspiration.

Charles Francis Feeney in Memory

¢The Man of Timeless Giving

L’homme au don Intemporel’

Granite Devotion in Polite Resolve

In Building the Curious Mind,

To Carve out Indefinite Good

The Serendipitous Humorous ‘Homme.

Pursuing Thrills of the Ordinary

With Tender Touch and Kindness,

His Gentle Voice of Reasoning

A Triumph of ‘Grande Âme.

Indelible Comprehension of Full Percent

In Symbols of Shrewd Sharpness,

Simply Trusting to the World

Subtly Seeking Peace L’homme Mystérieux.

The Confession

In Castletroy Limerick, Chuck found a comfortable pattern that saw him being able to relax. I’m always proud of the staff that allowed him to have that space, always on their toes but enjoying the step up in preparation for a visit. They were full of pride in knowing that he enjoyed his time there and he was their Boss! But alas I have a confession, Chuck wanted to host a ‘Last Hurrah’ before we sold the Hotel. We got to planning and organising a simple itinerary for the weekend, I was allowed to choose the Friday evening Buffet food and Chuck decided on the Saturday evening Dinner. In absolute true to form, Chuck poured over the cost details. The Chef Tom Flavin and I wanted to showcase Irish Food and cooking from the west coast of Ireland, as many were flying in from abroad. He saw Lobster Bisque on the Buffet menu and I got the cross ‘Look’! So I explained how we would only use a couple of Lobster shells as we needed non meat options, we coalesced and he gave us a little win. In my only moment of disobedience to him, we circuitously used more as we dressed the Buffet down but dressed the best of local food up. With Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin playing his infamous song Woodbrook, he gave me another look as I stood in the middle of the room with my back to a pillar, his smiling appreciative eyes - it’s one of my fondest memories of Chuck.

To Helga and all the Feeney Family, he will long live in his inspiration to us all. Rest in Peace Charles Francis, in Heaven's best seat.

- Aine McCarthy, from young Student Intern in Chicago to Former Director of AP’s Irelands Commercial Subsidiaries & General Manager San Francisco & Australia

Transformative Impact

Please accept this message on behalf of The University of Queensland. We are honoured to pay tribute to Chuck Feeney:

Transformative impact

Chuck Feeney's courage, humility and commitment to the advancement of humanity through research has been transformative at The University of Queensland (UQ). His leadership shaped the state of Queensland, Australia into a hub for research that has led to world-leading discoveries, and has facilitated the expansion of educational opportunity around the world – particularly in Vietnam.

Chuck’s legacy will continue for generations to come through the worthwhile causes he supported, and the countless others he inspired to make the world a better place through giving. His enthusiasm and ability to dream big encouraged governments to co-invest in a shared vision for a brighter future for Australia and the world.

At UQ, we have the great fortune of carrying on Chuck’s legacy. We will continue to strive to be worthy of his extraordinary generosity as we remember all he did for the world.

- Professor Deborah Terry AO, Vice-Chancellor and President, The University of Queensland

A Champion of Science

Chuck Feeney was a champion of giving. Throughout his lifetime, he donated at least $350 million to Queensland science institutes, including $20 million to establish the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) in 2003 at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. From an initial team of four groups, QBI is now home to 34 laboratories and 250 researchers, all working towards understanding brain function, and further, to treat and ultimately prevent, disorders of the brain. Our important advances in fundamental neuroscience over the past two decades are now being applied to the development of new therapeutic approaches for diseases of the nervous system such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias, Motor Neurone Disease (MND), concussion, amongst others. Stage 1 human trials have started for MND, and testing a device designed at QBI for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

QBI owes its achievements in neuroscience to Chuck’s largesse. In this, our 20th anniversary year, we honour Chuck and Helga’s extraordinary philanthropic contributions in a golden era that transformed research and biological sciences in Queensland.

- Professor Pankaj Sah, Executive Director, Queensland Brain Institute

Making Dreams Possible

It was hard not to be enchanted by Chuck’s insatiable curiosity for world events, science,
and education, and, of course, his remarkable vision. A couple of times, I proposed an idea to
Chuck, and he looked at me and said, “go bigger, go bigger.”

As I got to know Chuck, I was inspired by his selfless dedication to improving the world and his
incredible personal humility. An engaging twinkle in his eye would appear when a topic came up
that interested him. His impact reached far beyond UCSF and San Francisco, including Vietnam,
South Africa, Ireland, Australia, and more.

Mission Bay was once an old rail yard abandoned by South Pacific. But the governor of
California had a bold vision, and Chuck recognized the potential for transformation, too. Over
the years, he made anonymous contributions to many of our buildings and along the way, he
supported countless students, scientists, and clinicians.

His life’s work made innumerable dreams possible here and worldwide. He improved and
saved the lives of people he would never personally meet. His generosity positively transformed
our university, UCSF, and city, San Francisco. For that, we will forever be in his debt and his
legacy of Giving While Living will carry forward for generations to come.

- Sam Hawgood, MBBS, UCSF Chancellor, Charles Feeney Memorial, November 5, 2023

A Great Friend of Ireland

On behalf of the Higher Education Authority, I wish to express our deepest and heart-felt condolences on the loss of Dr Chuck Feeney. As you are aware, Chuck was a great friend of Ireland and because of that friendship and his amazing generosity, Ireland has been transformed in terms of educational resources and research facilities. We in Ireland, owe Chuck and you his family, a huge debt of gratitude for his foresight and philanthropy. Working with a predecessor of mine as Chairman of the HEA – Dr Don Thornhill, Chuck challenged the Government of the day to begin a new era of scientific research in Ireland, by co-funding five cycles of the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI). As a result of this investment the Irish universities have state-of-the-art buildings and equipment which has enabled them to compete for public research grants both in the EU and worldwide.

The Board also noted the many other areas supported by his Atlantic Philanthropies, between 1987-2016, which invested over $1.3b in the Republic of Ireland to advance higher education, human rights and services. The Board noted in particular the funding he provided to promote peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.
You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h'anam dílis. (May his kind soul be at the right hand of God)

- Michael Horgan, Chairperson, Higher Education Authority