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Farewell to a WEHI friend, Charles Feeney

Charles (Chuck) Feeney was an entrepreneur and philanthropist whose generosity supported health, education and human rights initiatives around the world. Through the creation of The Atlantic Philanthropies in 1982, which grew to become one of the largest private charitable organisations in the world, he gave away his vast personal fortune within his lifetime, devoting his wealth to the service of humanity.

Chuck was born in 1931 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. As a child, he would shovel snow and sell Christmas cards to make money. Later he became the first in his family to go to university. Together with his Cornell University classmate Robert Miller, Chuck co-founded Duty Free Shoppers in 1960 and the success of this company made both men billionaires.

Despite his business success Chuck felt uneasy with the extravagance usually associated with immense wealth. Motivated by his mother’s charitable nature through her work as a nurse, and later influenced by Andrew Carnegie’s essay ‘Wealth,’ Chuck decided to use his prosperity to help others.

WEHI has long been a grateful beneficiary of this remarkable generosity. For over 20 years, gifts equalling more than $50 million from Atlantic Philanthropies have enabled us to invest in leading- edge facilities and technologies.

Contributing to WEHI’s growth

Atlantic Philanthropies also contributed funding for WEHI’s Parkville building expansion in 2012. The construction of a new west wing and a complete renovation of the east wing doubled the institute’s laboratory space and created an advanced biomedical research facility. The new facilities enabled WEHI to attract leading researchers, postdoctoral fellows and PhD students from around the world and become one of Australia’s largest medical research institutes.

The Parkville campus is now a magnet for talented scientists with the potential to make extraordinary discoveries and offers a magnificent base to build collaborations and connections with our partners across the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct and beyond.

The support of Atlantic Philanthropies inspires our researchers to solve the world’s most complex health problems and make bold discoveries to better diagnose, prevent and treat a wide range of diseases, from cancer and developmental disorders to infectious and immune diseases.

Chuck Feeney was a humble man who often kept his philanthropy anonymous. He was a role model, an inspiration and a changemaker. His devotion to humanitarian philanthropy is reflected in WEHI’s labs, as we strive to create the type of brighter future for all that he envisioned.

L-R: Former WEHI COO, Maureen O'Keefe, former executive director of the Atlantic Philanthropies, Dr David Kennedy, The Atlantic Philanthropies USA director, the late Charles F. Feeney, former WEHI director Professor Suzanne Cory AC and former Atlantic Philanthropies CEO, Gara La Marche.
Above: L-R: Former WEHI COO, Maureen O’Keefe, former executive director of the Atlantic Philanthropies, Dr David Kennedy, The Atlantic Philanthropies USA director, the late Charles F. Feeney, former WEHI director Professor Suzanne Cory AC and former Atlantic Philanthropies CEO, Gara La Marche.

Advanced tech for drug development

One of these many generous gifts enabled the creation of a biotechnology centre at our Bundoora campus, housing advanced technologies that have supported our scientists to make transformational discoveries.

WEHI now has considerable expertise in the development of advanced tests that can efficiently handle large quantities of samples. We work closely with other biomedical researchers and medicinal chemists to turn these tests into new medicines. Our expertise in identifying and exploring potential drug targets has resulted in many new collaborations and agreements to share materials, which is accelerating research progress.

Header image: The late Charles F. Feeney of Atlantic Philanthropies with Professor Suzanne Cory AC, WEHI director 1996-2009.

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Illuminate Summer 2023
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