Charles (Chuck) Feeney was born in 1931 in New Jersey. In high school, a financial contributor made the largest donation his high school had ever received. This was the crucible moment that would influence Chuck’s later life.
After serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, he received a degree from Cornell. It was an experience gained while in the military that made him a very wealthy man. He began to sell alcohol to Navy personnel without import duties. This led to a business offering duty-free shopping in Europe, Asia, as well as America. He became a multi-billionaire.
As his wealth grew, so did his desire to partake in the luxuries he could afford. He had seven luxurious houses in the glamour spots across the globe. He had yachts, expensive clothing, and other possessions one would expect of someone with his wealth.
But he began to question what he really valued and that led him back to the values of his family and friends from his youth. When his first marriage ended in a divorce, he gave all of his seven homes to his wife plus a huge financial settlement. Then he began a return to a simpler lifestyle. He sold his vehicles, preferring to use public transit. He bought his clothes from the same stores as middle-class Americans. He flew in the economy class and quit the clubs he had joined. He no longer dined at expensive restaurants.
And he made a vow to give away all of his wealth anonymously. He supported public health across the world. His contributions helped lead to peace in Northern Ireland, his ancestral birthplace. He supported the building of public facilities on five continents. His contributions were made by cashier’s checks and even to this day, those receiving his support are unaware that he was their benefactor. He has made a serious effort to hide his identity as a philanthropist.
In total, Charles Feeney has given the world nearly 8 billion dollars. But even more importantly, he has given hope to those for whom hope is desperately needed.
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“How much is rich? Beyond all expectations. Beyond all deserving, so to speak. I just reached the conclusion with myself that money, buying boats, and all the trimmings didn’t appeal to me.” – Charles Feeney (from the biography The Billionaire Who Wasn’t by Conor O’Clery