Spreading a Culture of Philanthropy

Photo of Mike Constantino, '84
Mike Constantino ’84

Mike Constantino ’84, graduated from NC State University before the Poole College of Management was born. Yet over the years, the recently retired EY partner has become one of the college’s most productive philanthropists. He and his wife, Lori ’84, give generously to Poole College as a way of paying it forward to the school from which EY recruits heavily, and he has persuaded other EY partners to join him.

“A lot of people are uncomfortable asking for money,” said Christine Holmes ’88, a partner at EY who was recruited and mentored by Constantino. “Mike doesn’t seem to have that reservation at all.”

Toward the end of his junior year at NC State, Constantino, who was putting himself through college, realized he would have to take a semester off to work full time to pay for his senior year. Instead, he was awarded a one-year, full-tuition scholarship newly established by an NC State professor and his wife who had lost their only son, a college senior, in an accident. The scholarship enabled Constantino to stay on his path toward what became a very successful accounting career.

“Receiving the Kevin Ihnen Memorial Scholarship had a profound impact on how I thought about philanthropy,” Constantino said.

At the 1983 honors banquet, when he was named the recipient, he vowed that he, too, would endow a scholarship once he was in a financial position to do so. As soon as he made partner at EY, he followed through.

EY, one of the Big Four accounting firms, had already embraced a culture of giving by the time Constantino signed on after college. The EY Raleigh office had an annual fundraising campaign for NC State alumni. In addition, all 10 of the firm’s partners at the time, none of whom graduated from NC State, were invited to contribute to the EY Development Fund at NC State every year to further support the campaign. EY matched donations fully to double the contribution per partner. Because EY hires most of its new employees directly from college campuses, the firm views the commitment as an investment in the universities supplying EY’s incoming talent.

Today the total annual contribution to the EY Development Fund adds up to about $50,000, a portion of which goes into an endowment currently valued at about $250,000.

Endowing Scholarships

Constantino took that philanthropy a giant step further by encouraging partners to set up an endowed scholarship directly with his alma mater, in addition to their contribution to the EY Development Fund. He was the first NC State grad to make partner at EY; Holmes was the second. During her first year as a partner, Constantino sat down with her to talk about establishing an endowed scholarship of her own at Poole College.

Holmes had put herself through school without benefit of any scholarship aid, but tuition was about a tenth of what it is now, she noted.

“I would not have this phenomenal job at EY without the support and mentorship of the professors at NC State,” she said. Funding a scholarship at Poole College has strengthened her connection with the college, she said, noting that she has been involved as a judge for the annual Innovation and Leadership Showcase at Poole College and has taught a class on international accounting through the Second Life online community.

Constantino’s persuasiveness transcends school loyalties. He convinced Jim Scott, an EY tax partner and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, that contributing to NC State was the right thing to do. Scott’s daughter is a senior at Poole College, and he has seen how she has benefited from the programming and services that have helped prepare her for career success.

Scott set up his contribution as a five-year commitment to be spent every year for such things as summer programming and resources for programs run through the college’s Career Center.

“I’m giving back to support the great hires we have at EY who came from NC State,” Scott said. “My gift is in recognition of the effort that Poole College has taken on in growing its reputation.”

Frank Buckless, head of the accounting department at Poole College, said scholarships enable the college to compete for students who can choose from among many schools. Attracting a diverse group of top-performing students strengthens the program and better prepares students for life after college.

“We want students who have different life experiences and come from different geographic areas, backgrounds and ethnicities,” Buckless said. “That’s the world they’ll work in.”

Access to top faculty, immersive practicum experiences and CPA exam support all cost money, he said. The accounting department applies for a grant from the EY Development Fund annually to help provide these resources.

“EY partners recognize the value of the education they received here,” Buckless said.

Introducing the $25K for 25Y Campaign

To celebrate Poole College’s 25th anniversary in 2017, Constantino and Holmes launched a “$25K for 25Y” campaign, because $25,000 is the current minimum amount needed to endow a scholarship at NC State.

“We approached younger partners about building for the future,” he said. “Mark Baxter (NC State Jenkins MAC ’98), Travis Elrod (NC State Jenkins MAC ’99) and Chip Wentz, along with their spouses, have committed to funding endowments at Poole and continuing our legacy of investing in Poole College’s great programs, faculty and students.”

Partners can add to their scholarship over time. Anya Reid, Poole College’s executive director of development and external relations, said once the initial scholarship is established, four percent of the total endowment is drawn each year to help students. A $100,000 scholarship would generate a $4,000 grant or four $1,000 awards.

The NC State website has a list of corporations that match employee donations (www.matchinggifts.com/ncsu). The donor must apply for the matching funds; the development office can give some guidance. All of the EY partners leverage the firm’s matching grants.

“Endowments are critical to our future success, particularly as a state institution,” Reid said. “When a budget cut comes, institutions with much larger endowments are able to sustain themselves better because of the strength and size of their endowments. It is an investment in our future.”

She continued: “Mike Constantino is a phenomenal advocate for the college. He has used his personal relationships to open the door to the college for alumni and friends. He makes a point of talking about the importance and value of philanthropy, and about his own personal giving to NC State. Educating people about the importance of philanthropy is a big part of what we need help doing.”

Written for Poole College Communications by Nancy E. Oates. Video produced by Poole College Communications.

One response on “Spreading a Culture of Philanthropy

  1. Vicky Grissom Gillispie says:

    I knew Mike and his wife when we were all students in the business school working towards our accounting degrees. Like Mike, if it weren’t for my scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to finish my senior year. I think it is wonderful that he has made this endowment to help the current and future business students at Poole College. Cheers to you and congratulations on your early retirement.

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