Cornell celebrated the life of Charles F. “Chuck” Feeney ’56, founding chairman of The Atlantic Philanthropies, during an event April 19 at Cornell Tech to commemorate the university’s most generous donor and officially name the main thoroughfare of the New York City campus in his honor.

More than 200 guests attended the event, which recognized Feeney’s $8 billion in philanthropy worldwide and nearly $1 billion in giving to his alma mater – including $350 million, his foundation’s largest individual grant, to help establish and sustain Cornell Tech on New York City’s Roosevelt Island.

Cornell’s leaders often refer to Feeney as the university’s “third founder,” behind only Ezra Cornell and the university’s first president, Andrew Dickson White, in the magnitude of his influence and impact. He died in October 2023 at the age of 92.

“Supporting Cornell Tech was an enduring way to extend to others the opportunities from which I benefited,” Feeney said in April 2023, when the university announced the creation of Feeney Way at Cornell Tech. “I am grateful for this recognition of my approach to giving while living and hope that Feeney Way will guide a path for similar success for many others to come.”

In 2021, East Avenue on the Ithaca campus was renamed “Feeney Way” in honor of Feeney’s 90th birthday. Cornell Tech is now home to Cornell’s second Feeney Way, recognizing Feeney’s transformative impact on the university as well as his role in supporting the creation of Cornell Tech’s campus.

“Wherever you stand on any of Cornell’s campuses – at Cornell Tech, at Weill Cornell Medicine or in Ithaca – you are surrounded by a living memorial to the quiet greatness of Chuck Feeney,” said President Martha E. Pollack, noting that Feeney’s approach to philanthropy aligned with his selfless nature. “It wasn’t about what he wanted, it was about what was needed: how to do the greatest good.”

Feeney Way is a pathway that leads through the heart of the Cornell Tech campus, beginning just south of the 59th Street Bridge and extending a quarter-mile through campus buildings and the central plaza.

“We are so grateful that Chuck had the vision for what this campus could mean for Cornell’s and New York City’s future, and for the opportunities he has created for all of us who have the benefit of being a part of the Cornell Tech community,” said Greg Morrisett, the Jack and Rilla Neafsey Dean and Vice Provost of Cornell Tech. “Today, just days shy of what would have been Chuck’s 93rd birthday, we are honored to be opening Feeney Way – the walkways that lead to every path and every building on our campus. We know this will be an inspiration to current and future generations of Cornell Tech students and alumni encouraging them to give back, in whatever way they’re able, to their communities.”

A self-made entrepreneur who co-founded Duty Free Shoppers in 1960, Feeney became one of the world’s greatest and most inspirational philanthropists. He was an early and passionate proponent of “giving while living” – encouraging people of means to give away the majority of their wealth during their lifetimes. In this regard, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have referred to him as an inspiration for their “Giving Pledge” effort that has been embraced by many of the world’s leading philanthropists.

Feeney’s gifts through The Atlantic Philanthropies over four decades supported people and causes around the world, from education and human rights to medical research, health equity, peacemaking and social justice. The nearly $1 billion of this giving to Cornell, made mostly anonymously, transformed and continues to impact the university and the lives and experiences of its students and faculty.

During the event – which also included performances by alumni singers from the Cornell University Glee Club, and by Joe Beyrer, a bagpiper from the County Armagh Pipers Band – Itai Dinour ’01 spoke about the impact of the Cornell Tradition, a scholarship program created and endowed by Feeney.

“I am one of the 6,000 proud Cornell Tradition alumni who benefited from the catalytic, innovative philanthropy of Chuck Feeney,” Dinour said. “I am doing my part to stay involved as an active alumnus with Cornell’s efforts to develop a future generation of empathic, engaged citizens – in many ways, helping to plant and nurture seeds of service for future generations of Cornellians – and continuing the cycle that the Cornell Tradition, and Chuck Feeney, invested in me.”

The celebration also included remarks by Deborah Rhodes, M.D. ’92, daughter of the late President Emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes; Christopher Oechsli, president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies; Juliette Feeney-Timsit ’84 and Caroleen Feeney, daughters of Chuck Feeney; Robert Steel, former New York City deputy mayor for economic development during the Bloomberg administration; and Kraig Kayser, MBA ’84, chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees.