Mr. Feeney is Amazing

Philanthropist Wants to Be Rid of His Last $1.5 Billion (NYT, Jim Dwyer)

How The Poor, The Middle Class, and The Rich Spend Their Money (NPR, Jacob Goldstein, Lam Vo) – An interesting infographic showing that the 99% and the 1% are not all that different

No, not the one from “Boy Meets World,” (though he is pretty awesome in his own right).

The Mr. Feeney that I speak of is an 81-year-old multi-billionaire philanthropist, who is trying to give away all his wealth before he passes on. For years he has kept his charity work a secret, but has recently come forward about his generosity. Mr. Feeney is pretty much the complete opposite of a rich person stereotype. Although many rich people give generously to various organizations that help the less fortunate or fund humanitarian projects, Mr. Feeney stands out because he lives an extremely modest life, rarely, if ever, showing any signs of his overflowing wealth.

He admits that he is a “shabby dresser,” often buying clothes off the rack (Dwyer). His TV set is almost as old as I am (never bothered to keep up with technology), and he prefers to mingle with commoners by flying coach and choosing to settled in Midtown Manhattan (though he could have easily afforded an Upper East Side apartment near others of his economic class).

His is a true rags-to-riches story – raised in a working-class family, joined the Air Force, attended Cornell through G.I. bill, worked as a merchant, started his own business, founded his own philanthropic foundation (Dwyer). In class we talked about social mobility and how it takes 5-6 generations on average to move up/down the socioeconomic. Mr. Feeney is one of the exceptions to the trend, but his story is interesting still — even though he became fairly rich (economically), he didn’t change that much in his lifestyle (socially). At the end of the article, Dwyer writes that Mr. Feeney’s five children will receive an inheritance, but it won’t be enough to continue a legacy of “old money.” His daughters and son could have had the all privileges of the upper class, but instead they have all experienced working through college as waiters, maids, and cashiers.

This story was incredibly inspiring and I wish there were more Mr. Feeneys in the world.

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13 Responses to Mr. Feeney is Amazing

  1. es138090 says:

    Wow, that is a really interesting story. It is a unique example of how a person can resist the society and actually act on his own beliefs. Donating and sharing all those billions with others and living like a common person proves that humanity still has hope. I wish there would be more people like Mr. Feeny in the upper class because he shows what kindness is all about to the less fortunate.
    He is also not spoiling his children but still cares for them by leaving them a considerable amount of money. Unlike Bill Gates who is a rich prick he actually cares about others. Although Gates did earn him place in the upper class it still shows that his mentality and heart changed right alongside with him, while Mr. Feeny stayed pure of heart and right there with us common folk. I may not be rich and I might be a bit jealous but at least I would have the heart to share that with others.
    As I’ve said before this story shows that people can be caring and thoughtful no matter how rich or far up there in the society there are, there is still room for kindness and you can always resist the brainwashing that comes with large amounts of money. I hope that many more multimillionaires see this and will have at least 10% of the conviction that Mr. Feeny had and at the end of the day the world will be a much better place to live in.

  2. is129579 says:

    The story of Mr. Feeny is quite inspiring. He is a very generous and humble man who doesn’t put wealth, power, and status on a pedestal. He personally chose not to live in a high-class neighborhood and not have amenities that he can afford just because he doesn’t care about all that stuff. What I admire most about him is his generosity and philanthropy and how he prioritizes that above anything else.

    I do feel that the upper classes have a social responsibility to give back and to give to those who truly need it more than the rest. Mr. Feeny does this and more. One thing though, whether you’re rich or poor, doesn’t matter; I don’t see what’s wrong with having the latest gadgets and living in a high-end condo. I don’t feel that there is needed to have a moral and ethical code for living a certain way. Personally if I had the money I would have a luxury condo and probably more properties on the side. I feel as we get older our tastes and wants change and if one is able to obtain whatever they can I don’t see why not, I would go for it. So I do feel that Mr. Feeny was a little bit too extreme when it came to living a modest life but yet again it isn’t my life and he was most definitely content with what he had.

    Also, unlike Mr. Feeny I would continues a family name for generations to come. I did like that his children know what it is to work and to live as if they weren’t raised with a silver spoon in their mouths but they do have the right to the majority of their father’s estate. Yet again if they’re satisfied then who’s to judge.

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