“Before Atlantic came with this investment in bioscience and research, Queensland was largely beaches.”
— Peter Beattie, former Premier of Queensland, Australia
In 1994, Nelson Mandela had just been elected president of South Africa after serving a 27-year prison sentence. Atlantic began looking for ways to support this country on the brink of radical, hopeful change.
Atlantic invested heavily in UCSF’s Mission Bay campus—providing $290 million in grants—which helped realize many of the buildings on the site.
Imagine having the resources to build something that can dramatically alter the lives of people, communities, even nations.
Chuck Feeney is a hero. He probably wouldn’t like that characterization very much. But his modest manner and thoughtful embrace of philanthropy make him a figure that everyone can learn from. I certainly have.
Facilitating the peace process in Northern Ireland. Catalyzing the creation of knowledge economies in the Republic of Ireland and Australia. Hastening the end of the juvenile death penalty and reducing the number of children without health insurance in the United States.
There is a certain sort of philanthropist who funds buildings to gain the immortality that comes from having his or her name carved in stone above the door. Chuck Feeney is not one of them.
Buildings have a special allure for philanthropy—their mass, their unambiguous reality, their durability, their promise of sheltering great transformative enterprise—that few other achievements can match.
Let’s face it, we were slightly mad. No, not slightly, very. We believed we could transform the race-obsessed authoritarian country that had given the word “apartheid” to the world into an exemplary non-racial democracy.