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29 May 2024  

Anniversary of the conferring of an Honorary Degree on Charles Feeney

Anniversary of the conferring of an Honorary Degree on Charles Feeney

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On Thursday, 6th September 2012, Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney was conferred with an honorary degree jointly by the Universities of Ireland, North and South. In St Patrick’s Hall at Dublin Castle, National University of Ireland joined its fellow universities, Dublin City University, Queen’s University Belfast, National University of Ireland Galway (now University of Galway), National University of Ireland Maynooth (now Maynooth University), Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin, University of Limerick and University of Ulster, in honouring the contribution made by Mr Feeney to higher education in Ireland.

The degree was conferred jointly on behalf of their respective universities by:

  1. Professor Brian Mac Craith, President, Dublin City University
  2. Professor James J. Browne, President, NUI, Galway
  3. Professor Philip Nolan, President, NUI, Maynooth
  4. Dr Maurice Manning, Chancellor, National University of Ireland
  5. Dr Michael Murphy, President, University College Cork
  6. Dr Hugh Brady, President, University College Dublin
  7. Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University, Belfast
  8. Professor Don Barry, President, University of Limerick
  9. Professor Richard Barnett, Vice-Chancellor, University of Ulster
  10. Dr Mary Robinson, Chancellor, University of Dublin

The Taoiseach Mr Enda Kenny TD and the Minister for Education & Skills Mr Ruairí Quinn TD were guests of honour at the ceremony.

Mr Feeney’s life and legacy stands in firm contrast to that of the typical entrepreneur. Co-founding Duty Free Shoppers in 1960, Feeney began accumulating great wealth. Along with this prodigious success, however, came an acute ethical fortitude. As quoted in Conor O’Clery’s 2007 biography The Billionaire Who Wasn’t, he stated “I had one idea that never changed in my mind – that you should use your wealth to help people.” He founded the Atlantic Philanthropies, his private charitable foundation, in 1982. For the next 38 years, it was dedicated to helping political, social and health causes around the world.

Charles F. Feeney and Dr Maurice Manning

Charles F. Feeney and Dr Maurice Manning
Click to enlarge

In 2020, Atlantic Philanthropies closed after having given away all of Feeney’s money and thereby accomplishing its goal. Throughout his life, Feeney has given away over $8 billion, with $1 billion of that going into the Irish education sector, mostly to third-level institutions. Funds donated to the National University of Ireland enabled campus enhancements at the National College of Art and Design, as well as major projects at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. University College Cork’s Tyndall National Institute was partially funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, as were many renovations and enhancements to the campus. UCD’s Veterinary School received IR£6 million from Feeney & Atlantic Philanthropies which partially funded its new building and hospital in 2002. University of Galway’s student facilities, biomedical engineering research facilities and the state-of-the-art Engineering building were funded by Atlantic Philanthropies. Maynooth University was supported by Atlantic Philanthropies in developing student facilities and research facilities including the National Institution for Research and Spatial Analysis and the National Centre for Geocomputation, and buildings such as the John Hume Building, the Bioengineering Building, the Social Sciences block and sports facilities. MU also got funding for scholarships and expansion of Access programmes and interventions.

All of this is only scratching the surface of the support that Chuck Feeney has given NUI and its associated institutions, without even mentioning the other third-level institutions. The landscape of Irish education, both figuratively and literally, has been transformed by his life’s work and generosity.


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