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Chuck Feeney Award for Philanthropy

Great wealth comes with great responsibility

The Chuck Feeney Award for Philanthropy recognises and celebrates an individual who has made extraordinary philanthropic contributions to the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and cardiovascular health and research.  

The Award not only celebrates Australia’s most visionary philanthropists, but it also pays tribute to the late US businessman, Chuck Feeney, who gave away his business fortune of $11 billion and played a critical role in the Institute’s history.  

In 2006 Mr Feeney, through his foundation Atlantic Philanthropies, gave the Institute $20 million to help build its state-of-the-art facilities in Darlinghurst, Sydney. The funding was transformative, says Professor Bob Graham, who was Executive Director of the Institute at the time.

Professor Bob Graham Quote: “Chuck Feeney made it his life’s mission to give away his fortune to organisations that would improve the lives of others. He did not do this for any recognition but because he genuinely believed that great wealth comes with great responsibility”

The inaugural 2022 award was given to Terry and Ginette Snow, who established the Snow Foundation in 1991. Since its inception, the Snow Foundation has provided over $130 million to support more than 400 organisations and 420 individuals.

 The Snow family also established Snow Medical to support the most visionary medical research leaders and their teams across Australia. In 2022 the Institute’s Associate Professor Emily Wong was awarded a Snow Fellowship that will allow her to accelerate her research into the dark genome.  

Chuck Feeney and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute  

Chuck Feeney is a legend in the world of philanthropy and counted amongst his many admirers Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. 

He made his fortune in the 1960s after setting up the retail giant, Duty Free Shoppers (DFS). In 1982 he established a foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, with a mission to give away his entire fortune to worthy causes, and to this end, pioneered the Giving While Living philosophy.

At first, he made it a stipulation that beneficiaries would not publicise his donations, but he later changed his mind to encourage other wealthy individuals to follow suit.

By the late 1990s and early 2000s Mr Feeney had established a name for himself in Australia by providing significant funding to the Baker Institute, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, and the Institute of Molecular Biosciences. He viewed Australia as the gateway to improving the lives of people in Southeast Asia – a region he was passionately engaged in.  

Professor Graham recalls: “Back then we were located on one floor in the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and desperately needed more space to expand. Whilst we had secured funding from both the NSW and Federal Governments, we still needed a further $20 million for a research building to house the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.  

“In short, we were struggling and there was no one in Australia who would provide that level of funding.”

It took about four years of perseverance to track down Chuck Feeney and then set up a meeting. In 2005 Professor Graham travelled to San Francisco to ask him for financial support to allow the construction of the Institute’s purpose-built headquarters.

Professor Graham says: “At the end of the trip I was thanking Chuck for his time and had just turned to leave our meeting when he put his arm around my shoulders and, with a glint in his eyes, said: ‘Oh, by the way, you can have the $20 million to build your research centre’.

“And I have never seen anyone happier despite having just given away $20 million.”  

The building was opened just three years later in 2008 by Crown Princess Mary of Denmark.

Chuck Feeney died at age 92 in October, 2023.

Princess Mary at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Building opening

About the Chuck Feeney Award

The award acknowledges philanthropists, who have generously supported the work of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, and it honours those who have worked to create lasting, positive changes to cardiovascular health worldwide.  

The philanthropic contribution must be visionary, and impactful and have helped to create strong leaders and build deeper research collaborations. 

The purpose of the award is to honour philanthropists whose actions reflect Chuck Feeney’s core beliefs:  

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years