‘Giving while living’: Chuck Feeney’s ‘transformative impact’ on University of Limerick celebrated

Landmark naming of main UL thoroughfare as ‘Feeney Way’ to honour remarkable contribution

A landmark celebrating the ‘transformative impact’ philanthropist Dr Chuck Feeney had on University of Limerick has been unveiled.

The main thoroughfare on the University of Limerick campus has been renamed ‘Feeney Way’ to highlight the Irish American philanthropist’s legacy and his ‘giving while living’ philosophy.

A naming ceremony featuring invited guests took place at UL’s Glucksman Library today (Thursday).

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey, founding president Dr Ed Walsh, UL Foundation Chair Harry Fehily, and Dr Feeney’s son Patrick and biographer Conor O’Clery – attending on the 91-year-old’s behalf – were among those in attendance at the event honouring The Atlantic Philanthropies founder and his contribution to the University.

Through The Atlantic Philanthropies in the region of €150m has been gifted to the UL Foundation, which has been transformational to the campus, the city and wider region.

Professor Mey said: “University of Limerick’s status as a research university in Ireland and indeed globally would not have been possible without Chuck Feeney’s giving while living philosophy. 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.

“It’s right that we do acknowledge him 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,” Professor Mey added.

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey, founding president Dr Ed Walsh, UL Foundation Chair Harry Fehily, Dr Feeney’s son Patrick and biographer Conor O’Clery. Pic Arthur Ellis.

UL Foundation Chair Harry Fehily said Chuck Feeney’s legacy “means everything to the University. I think the greatest thing Chuck has done for this institution is internationalise it – open his international network of institutions and contacts through philanthropy. His giving while living has been a great gift to this University, the region and beyond.

“What was a largely green field site has developed to the expansive University we know today. Chuck’s legacy is truly transformational for this institution, for Limerick and for the Mid-West. I hope that Feeney Way at UL will inspire the next generation of philanthropists,” Mr Fehily added.

Founding UL president Dr Ed Walsh said: “Chuck Feeney 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. So, obviously after some deep consideration he decided to give, essentially, 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, Bill Gates, the Collision 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, I think, in hindsight be seen as one of the most important things he did.”

The physical impact of Chuck Feeney’s support for UL can be seen right across the campus including in the stunning Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, the Foundation Building housing the University Concert Hall, the School of Medicine and more recently with the development of the Bernal Institute in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, which has enabled the University to attract a team of world-leading materials scientists and engineers to drive its research strengths to a new and exciting frontier.

Chuck Feeney was the catalyst behind the establishment of the University of Limerick Foundation in 1989 and was a long-time Foundation Board Member.

In February 2011, Chuck Feeney became a signatory to ‘The Giving Pledge’. In his letter to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the founders of The Giving Pledge, Feeney wrote: “I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living—to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition. More importantly, today’s needs are so great and varied that intelligent philanthropic support and positive interventions can have greater value and impact today than if they are delayed when the needs are greater.”

Dr Feeney, from New Jersey and who pioneered the concept of duty-free shopping in the 1960s, gave more than €1.5 billion to projects in Ireland via The Atlantic Philanthropies, which was wound up in 2017 after he reached his ‘life-long ambition’ to give away his fortune of some €7.6 billion.

Over 120,000 UL graduates have benefitted from his generosity, studying in one of the buildings or living in one of the apartments funded by his philanthropy or using the University’s unrivalled sporting facilities.

UL was delighted to join with the other universities on the island of Ireland in 2012 to honour the US philanthropist with an honorary doctorate, the first time such an honour had been conferred jointly by the various institutions.

Two foundation stones have been placed at each end of Feeney Way, which starts at the front gates of UL and runs to the East Gate, with a host of new signs dotted at various locations on the main avenue on the campus.

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