New award honors Feeney for entrepreneurship, generosity


Charles F. “Chuck” Feeney ’56, founding chairman of The Atlantic Philanthropies and the university’s most generous donor, will be the first recipient of a new Cornell Award, presented on his behalf in honor of successful entrepreneurs who have dedicated their lives to giving back .

Through his charitable foundation, Feeney has donated more than $ 8 billion to universities and nonprofits around the world and for global causes focused on human rights, education, health justice, peacemaking, and social justice.

Chuck Feeney, whose Atlantic Philanthropies Foundation has provided targeted, groundbreaking support to education, health care, human rights, and programs for the benefit of children and the elderly.

Feeney will receive the Charles F. Feeney ’56 Lifetime Achievement Award for Entrepreneurship and Humanity in Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s Annual Celebration Conference, a virtual event from April 29-30. The conference is free and open to the public. register here.

Feeney, who will turn 90 in April, will be honored on April 30th at 3 p.m. The ceremony will include remarks and questions and answers with President Martha E. Pollack and Christopher G. Oechsli, who served The Atlantic Philanthropies for 17 years and were Chairman and CEO at the time the foundation closed in 2020.

“We created this award to honor entrepreneurs who have made incredible gifts to mankind, either through philanthropy or through the positive impact of their business activities,” said Zach Shulman ’87, JD ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell. “Chuck Feeney was an obvious choice for our first recipient, given the impact it had on Cornell and so many other organizations. And we are delighted that he has allowed us to put his name on the legacy of the award for future recipients. “

A native of Elizabeth, New Jersey, Feeney enrolled in the School of Hotel Administration in 1952 with support from the GI Bill. In 1960 he and his colleague Robert W. Miller ’55 founded Duty Free Shoppers, which soon became the world’s largest seller of luxury goods.

In 1984 Feeney secretly gave up almost all of his fortune, transferring almost all of his share of duty free shoppers, valued at more than $ 500 million at the time, to Atlantic and his own fortune to less than $ 5 million off. In 2020, Feeney achieved his life goal of giving away all his fortune and officially dissolved The Atlantic Philanthropies. Cornell recently celebrated it by renaming East Avenue to Feeney Way.

Feeney donated nearly $ 1 billion to Cornell over nearly 40 years, mostly anonymously. His support has enabled academic and student initiatives in the university’s colleges and schools. the construction and remodeling of the residential communities on Cornell’s North and West Campus; the creation and continued support of the Cornell Tradition program; among numerous other grants.

His largest grant, $ 350 million in 2011, helped Cornell win the competition to build the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, New York City.

Other virtual events during the Entrepreneurship at Cornell Celebration event:

  • eLab demo day, April 29, 1:00 p.m. eLab student teams present their businesses and answer questions.
  • BenDaniel Venture Challenge, April 29, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Five finalists present their businesses to a group of investors.
  • Fireside chat with Bob Langer ’70, co-founder of Moderna, April 30, 11:30 am-12:45pm Lynden Archer, Joseph Silbert’s dean of engineering at the College of Engineering, will moderate the discussion and allow time for an event audience questions and answers.
  • Fireside chat with Stephanie Cartin ’06 and Courtney Spritzer, April 30th, 1: 45pm. Cartin and Spritzer are co-founders of Socialfly and co-hosts of The Entreprenista Podcast. Cartin is also the co-founder of Markid and Spritzer is the author of Like. Love. Follow. “Kevin Hallock, Dean of Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, will moderate the discussion and allow time for audience questions and answers.
  • Parking spaces for the student business of the year, April 30, 2:00 p.m. Five finalists present their companies to a jury. The winner will be announced at 4 p.m.

These events are free and open to the public. register here.

Kathy Hovis is an Entrepreneurship Writer for Cornell.