Mysterious Cornell campus donor revealed

December 20, 2011 11:11AM

The mysterious donor whose $350 million gift will go towards the creation of Cornell University’s 2 million-square-foot applied science and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island is Atlantic Philanthropies, a charitable organization founded by billionaire Charles Feeney. Feeney, who made billions of dollars through co-founding the Duty Free Shoppers Group, graduated from Cornell’s School of Hotel Management in 1956, the New York Times reported, and has been consistently making donations to his alma mater.

The $350 million gift was announced this past Friday, followed by the mayor yesterday announcing the selection of Cornell and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to build a city campus. It is the largest in the university’s history, as was previously reported. But Fenney, 80, is not known for grand displays of wealth — he flies coach, owns neither a home nor a car, and wears a $15 watch, the Times said.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” Feeney said in a statement released by Atlantic Philanthropies to the Times, “to create economic and educational opportunity on a transformational scale.” [NYT]