Daniel Flatley learned the art of philanthropy from his late father, Thomas, who used his great wealth as a real estate developer to support good works both in the United States and abroad.
“My father taught us that philanthropy is about doing good on the ground,” he says. “It’s about making a difference.”
That philosophy was on display when Thomas Flatley heard that the Dorchester house of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa, had heating problems.
“He thought the world of Mother Teresa,” Flatley says. “He said, ‘Dan, go see what you can do.’ He didn’t want us to just write a check. He wanted to find out what the problem was and what we could do to fix it.”
Today, Daniel helps steward that philanthropic legacy as a trustee of the Flatley Foundation, which his father founded. Many of the tents and food supplied to Haitians following the 2010 earthquake were provided by the foundation.
Thomas Flatley, who died in 2008 of Lou Gehrig’s disease, came to the United States from County Mayo, Ireland, in the 1950s. At that time, ambitious, young Irishmen were frequently told that law school was the best route to success in their new country. It was advice that Thomas ignored. “My father was too impatient for that,” says Daniel, the eldest of five siblings.
Instead, after serving two years in the Army, he attended classes at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston and earned a plumbing and an electrician’s license. His first construction project was an apartment building in Quincy, and soon he was also developing nursing homes, hotels, shopping centers and office parks. His business was centered in New England, although there were properties in New Jersey and Florida.
Daniel remembers his gregarious father not only as a successful businessman, but as a devout Catholic who attended Mass every day. The foundation is a significant supporter of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston.
Flatley’s interests in real estate development and Catholic education coincided to Saint Anselm College’s benefit about a decade ago, with a gift to the college of 38 acres of Bedford, N.H. land. The property had originally been slated for a retail center with big box stores, but Thomas Flatley decided to give it to the college when plans for the development did not work out.
Daniel helped arrange the donation, which will provide a total of $6.5 million for the college’s endowment when the final parcel is sold, says Fr. Mark Cooper, O.S.B., vice president for finance at the college.
Daniel, who shares his father’s passion for Catholic education, earned a political science degree from the University of Vermont and a master’s of education from Boston College, where Thomas Flatley had served as a trustee.
True to the spirit of his father’s approach to philanthropy, Daniel Flatley has remained involved in Saint Anselm. Since 2002, he has been on the board of trustees.