Presentation of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Stead Medal in International Philanthropy Award Ceremony

University of California, San Francisco
Smith Cardiovascular Research Building
San Francisco, California
August 24, 2015

Introduction

Thank you, Dr. [Regis] Kelly. On behalf of Indiana University, I want to thank you and the University of California, San Francisco for hosting us this afternoon.

It really is an enormous pleasure to be here today to honor one of the truly great international philanthropists of our time, the founder of The Atlantic Philanthropies, Charles F. “Chuck” Feeney.

The Importance of International Philanthropy and The Establishment of The Stead Medal in Interntional Philanthropy

As is true in so many fields of endeavor, philanthropy in the 21st century transcends national borders. Today, both donors and fundraisers increasingly operate in a global environment as they strive to address some of the world’s most pressing needs. Those needs—including the improvement of global health, ensuring access to quality education, the alleviation of poverty and hunger, and addressing climate change and the world’s energy needs—also transcend national borders.

At Indiana University, we are committed to addressing many of these same needs through the work of our schools of medicine, the largest in the nation; public health; education; public and environmental affairs; and our recently established School of Global and International Studies, which builds on our extensive strengths in internationally focused fields—most notably languages and country and area studies. This school, incidentally, along with the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, is one of seven new schools we have established in the last four years.

Of course, the mission of IU’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy includes advancing the academic study of international philanthropy in all of its manifestations as well as conducting research of the highest quality that benefits people and institutions around the globe.

Last year, I was delighted to announce that the university and the school had created the Stead Medal for International Philanthropy in order to recognize individuals who have demonstrated outstanding commitment and leadership in all aspects of international philanthropy and who have worked to ensure that philanthropy is a global force for improving communities, institutions, and people’s lives.

The medal is named in honor of Jerre Stead, who serves on the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Board of Visitors, and who has had a long and distinguished business career leading a number of high-tech companies.

Through the Stead Family Foundation, Jerre and his family are also known for philanthropy that is making a transformative difference across the nation. Last year, his foundation made a generous gift of $1.5 million to endow the Stead Family Chair in International Philanthropy in the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which will create new opportunities for research, education, and training in international philanthropy.

The Stead Medal in International Philanthropy commemorates Jerre’s outstanding career and the Stead family’s commitment to international philanthropy. It is being awarded today for the very first time.

Honoring Charles "Chuck" Feeney

The inaugural recipient is the founder of The Atlantic Philanthropies, Charles F. “Chuck” Feeney.

Following his service in the Korean War, Mr. Feeney attended Cornell University on the G.I. Bill, becoming the first member of his family to attend college. After graduation, he started a business that eventually became Duty Free Shoppers, the world’s largest luxury goods retailer.

His deeply held belief that people who have been fortunate to amass wealth should use their wealth for the greater good led him to establish The Atlantic Philanthropies, through which, in the near future, he will have given away his entire fortune. Over more than three decades, Atlantic has made grants totaling more than $7 billion—focused on promoting education, health, peace, reconciliation, and human dignity around the world.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Feeney in my native Australia in 2011.

It was clear from our conversation that Mr. Feeney is a deeply committed internationalist. In fact, there are few philanthropists in the world whose international impact can rival his.

Mr. Feeney began visiting Australia regularly in the early 1990s with his good friend, the late Ken Fletcher, one of the heroes of the Golden Age of Australian tennis, who won a number of doubles and mixed doubles Grand Slam titles.

He soon began to look for philanthropic opportunities in Australia.

As he discovered in the late 1990s, Australian universities relied primarily on fees and government grants, and there really was no tradition of philanthropic funding by businesses or wealthy alumni. That is beginning to change, thanks in large part, to the extraordinary generosity of Mr. Feeney, who has been regarded for many years as Australia’s leading philanthropist.

He has made multiple gifts to my alma mater, the University of Queensland—gifts that have been truly transformational and have contributed greatly to the rise in the university’s international standing in recent years.

His generous support for research in molecular bioscience—which included the initial funding for the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland, and the leadership of the then-vice chancellor of the university, John Hay—helped to leverage even more funding from the State of Queensland government, the federal government in Canberra, and from American philanthropic organizations, including the Gates Foundation.

The University of Queensland has developed into a pioneer in biomedical research. Mr. Feeney’s foresight and generosity have allowed the State of Queensland and the university to build or expand 13 health and medical research institutes, all of which now form part of a global collaborative research network.

He also helped the university to develop a world-class art district. A major donation from Atlantic helped to transform the University of Queensland’s Mayne Hall—a building originally designed as the university’s graduation hall (in which, in fact, I graduated in 1975)—into a well-appointed art museum, with a gallery of self-portraits donated by eminent Australian artists. I have had the pleasure of visiting the museum, and it truly is a beautiful facility.

His remarkable gifts elsewhere in Australia—totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars—have been equally transformational for the institutions involved.

Mr. Feeney also worked closely with Peter Beattie, who served as the 36th Premier of Queensland (and with whom I attended the University of Queensland), to help transform Queensland into a “Smart State,” promoting knowledge, creation, and innovation.

I was personally delighted that a generous gift from Mr. Feeney and Atlantic allowed my good friend, former Justice of the High Court of Australia Michael Kirby, to be appropriately recognized for his courage and excellence as a jurist with the establishment of the Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity in Society.

The extraordinary impact of Mr. Feeney’s generosity is, of course, not limited to what he has done in Australia, but extends to the generosity he has shown on multiple other continents through transformational gifts.

Mr. Feeney’s generosity has helped to advance education, science, health care, technology, and civil rights in the United States, Australia, Ireland, Vietnam, Bermuda, and South Africa. I had the great pleasure of visiting the magnificent state-of-the-art Life Sciences Building he funded at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. And his gift to his alma mater, Cornell University, has made possible the creation of the technology-focused campus, Cornell Tech in New York City, and has the potential to stimulate the development of technology innovation there to rival that of Silicon Valley.

Indiana University is deeply grateful for his support of the IU School of Education and for the support from The Atlantic Philanthropies that played a major role in the establishment of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Building on a Tradition of Anonymous Giving

As many of you also know, for the first half of it history, grant making by The Atlantic Philanthropies was done anonymously. In fact, after having crisscrossed the globe in a clandestine operation to give away his fortune, Mr. Feeney has been called “the James Bond of philanthropy.”1

Indeed, anonymous giving is one of the most ancient and esteemed philanthropic practices. The eminent 12th century Jewish philosopher Maimonides famously ranked eight levels of charity. Anonymous donations were ranked second only to gifts that lift people from dependence. Mr. Feeney’s early commitment to anonymous giving built upon longstanding traditions of anonymous giving in multiple cultures around the world.

Chuck Feeney has been the very personification of the ideals set forth by Andrew Carnegie for the man of wealth: “an example of modest, un-ostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance,” who uses “all surplus revenues which come to him… to produce the most beneficial results for the community.”2

The enormous transformational impact of his generosity is evident around the world, and we are delighted to have this opportunity to honor him today.

Presentation of The Stead Medal in International Philanthropy

And now, I will invite our honoree, Chuck Feeney, to join us at the podium.

Charles Feeney, your deep commitment to improving people’s lives serves as an inspiration to all of us and to people around the world.

To honor distinction, service, and philanthropic leadership such as yours, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy has established the Stead Medal in International Philanthropy.

The medal features the heraldic crest of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, which symbolizes kindness, charity, knowledge, and strength.

And so, by the authority vested in me by the Trustees of Indiana University, in recognition of the extraordinary generosity you have shown through transformational gifts on multiple continents; your commitment to “giving while living”; and for all that you have done to sustain philanthropy as a global force for improving communities, institutions, and people’s lives, I am honored and privileged to present to you the inaugural Stead Medal in International Philanthropy.

Congratulations.

Toast

Thank you, Mr. Feeney.

Let me thank all of you once again for being here on this memorable day. I want to once again thank our hosts here at the University of California, San Francisco.

Would you all join me in raising your glasses to the deserving recipient of the inaugural Stead Medal in International Philanthropy—Chuck Feeney. As TIME Magazine rightly said of him in 1997: “(his) beneficence ranks among the grandest of any living American."

To Chuck Feeney.

Source Notes

  1. Steve Bertoni, “Chuck Feeney: The Billionaire Who is Trying to Go Broke,” Forbes, September 18, 2012.
  2. Andrew Carnegie, The “Gospel of Wealth” Essays and Other Writings, (Penguin, 2006), 10.