Chuck Feeney, the New Jersey-born businessman whose philanthropic work spawned the concept of “giving while living,” died this week at the age of 92.
Feeney, whose wealth was used to establish Atlantic Philanthropies, committed to spending down billions of dollars before he died, eschewing the more traditional approach of large foundations that tend to give the legally required percentage of their assets — 5% — each year.
Feeney, who co-founded Duty Free Shoppers, incorporated Atlantic Philanthropies in 1982 and transferred all his business assets to the foundation two years later. By the time the foundation sunsetted in 2020, it had made more than $8 billion in grants. His approach — giving the majority of his wealth during his lifetime — has been emulated to some extent by other major philanthropists, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.
Atlantic’s U.S. focus issues included the reform of school discipline policies — the foundation helped produce one of the most alarming and in-depth studies on the matter, which looked at patterns over time in Texas — and the expansion of community schools as a strategy for family well-being.
“Chuck was as passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of others as he was about being successful at business,” said Christopher G. Oechsli, President and CEO of Atlantic and long-time adviser to Mr. Feeney, in a statement about his passing. “He cared more about being effective at what he did than about amassing wealth or collecting awards. In philanthropy, that meant being present and engaged in an unassuming manner with the people and their work who, with his support, could improve the lives of others in meaningful and lasting ways.”