The University of Melbourne has paid tribute to Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney, the noted US entrepreneur and philanthropist who died on October 9, aged 92.
Mr Feeney, through his private foundation the Atlantic Philanthropies, donated billions to the service of humanity, particularly in education, health, reconciliation and human rights on five continents, including Australia.
This has included significant investment in multiple University of Melbourne programs and initiatives, resulting in profound change.
Mr Feeney’s engagement with Australia began in the late 1990s when he identified an opportunity to invest Atlantic’s funds and get ‘bang for his buck’ in maximising the social benefit.
Working in partnership with governments, universities and medical research institutions, Atlantic leveraged significant public funding to help build world-class biomedical infrastructure and develop Australia’s intellectual capital and medical research capacity.
This work led to investments in the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, including a $30 million grant in 2000 to the University to support a new Bio21 Institute building. Since then, other grants to the University have included supporting a National Taskforce on Mental Health in Vietnam, student scholarships at International House and funding to support the University’s research partnership with the Indigenous communities of Northeast Arnhem Land.
In 2016, the Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity (AFSE) Program, led by the University of Melbourne, was established after a $65 million grant from Atlantic Philanthropies, then one of the single largest philanthropic gifts in Australia.
As part of the Program, fellows from Australia and New Zealand complete a foundation year where they develop a social change project and complete a post-graduate qualification.
Chair of the AFSE Board, Professor Ian Anderson, said that 70 Fellows, mostly Indigenous, have already graduated from the Melbourne and Auckland-based program, working as leaders in community and across multiple fields including health, education, government and the financial sector.
Atlantic Institute Board director Professor James McCluskey, one of the founders of the AFSE program, said the Fellows are part of a global network of Atlantic Fellowship programs that have produced 794 Atlantic Fellows from over 70 countries.
Over the next two decades, the community will grow to more than 2,700 working to improve social equity while maintaining connections across the different programs through the Atlantic Institute in Oxford.
Executive Director of AFSE, Professor Liz McKinley said: “By supporting Indigenous communities across the Oceania region through AFSE, Chuck and Atlantic Philanthropies have demonstrated their faith in our ability to believe in ourselves, discover our own solutions, and recognise our valuable contributions within a global context.”
In 2021, Mr Feeney and Christopher Oechsli, President and CEO of the Atlantic Philanthropies, were honoured as Fellows of the University of Melbourne in recognition of their extraordinary philanthropic investment and leadership.
At the time, University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell, said: “Mr Feeney and Mr Oechsli have demonstrated remarkable philanthropic leadership and made significant investments that are changing the world for the better. They have created a wonderful legacy at the University of Melbourne and have made investments that will bring benefits to the community for decades to come.”