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Constantino Gift Honors and Supports Poole Faculty

Lori and Mike Constantino endowed the Poole Enrichment Fund when their Day of Giving Challenge was met.

By Lea Hart

A gift established by Mike (Business Management ’84, Accounting ’85) and Lori Constantino (Business Management ’84) on this year’s NC State Day of Giving will support faculty excellence within the Poole College of Management.

The Constantinos endowed the Poole Faculty Enrichment Fund after donors enthusiastically met their Day of Giving challenge: if 100 donors supported the fund within a three-hour window on Day of Giving, the Constantinos would commit $250,000 to fully endow the fund – creating sustainable support to faculty. More than 200 donors contributed to the fund on Day of Giving.

For the couple, the gift was an opportunity to both meet a need they saw at Poole and to honor faculty who they felt had a major impact on both themselves and the generations that came after them.

“The Poole College – and legacy departments before the creation of Poole – have had tremendous faculty that care about students,” Mike said. “They are focused on teaching, research and graduating successful students.

“We hope this endowment will provide a way for former students to honor their favorite faculty and staff and provide the Dean with additional resources to retain and reward the very best.”

For their own part, Mike said the couple wished to honor four former Poole faculty in making the gift. As both a student, and later in returning to the university as a recruiter for EY (from which he retired as partner in 2017), Constantino said he had a front-row seat to the impact Carl Messere, Bob Peace, Lynn Thorne, and CJ Skender made on the college.

“They were very impactful teachers, all of them,” he said. “And each made important contributions to the program.”

The couple are long-time supporters of NC State and Poole College. The Michael and Lori Constantino Endowment Fund provides fellowship awards to students in the Poole College of Management’s Jenkins Master of Accounting program, with separate endowments for the College of Education and the marching band in the Department of Music at NC State. He and Lori are passionate supporters of NC State’s Feed the Pack Food Pantry, athletics and other causes at NC State.

Mike himself was a scholarship recipient. He was the first to receive the Kevin Ihnen Memorial Scholarship, something he said was crucial to his completing school on time and not needing to take a break to earn money for tuition.

Mike has also stayed active with the university in many other ways over the years. Among his roles, he’s been a mentor to Jenkins MAC students, the chair of the Poole College of Management’s Board of Advisors, and chair of the NC State University Foundation Board.

Even after doing so much, the couple continued to think about “what’s next” in their support for Poole College.

“We spent a lot of time listening to what their needs were,” Mike said. “One recurring theme was the challenge of hiring and retaining faculty members.”

Recruiting and retaining the best

“The creation of the Poole Faculty Enrichment Fund shows Mike and Lori’s commitment to excellence,” said Frank Buckless, Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Dean of the Poole College of Management. “Our faculty are often cited as one of the most impactful components of the student experience. Their gift will allow the college to continue to recruit and retain the brightest faculty.”

Their gift will allow the college to continue to recruit and retain the brightest faculty.

The reality is, public state universities can struggle to compete against private colleges with more funds at their disposal to recruit and retain the best faculty.

It’s a challenge Kathy Krawczyk, accounting department head and Dixon Hughes Goodman professor of accounting, is very aware of.

“I do face faculty who are getting opportunities at other schools that are higher paying,” she said. “We want to keep them – not just in accounting, but all faculty – we want the best faculty we can get.”

A fund like that started by the Constantinos helps in that it means Poole can, for example, provide more funding for travel for research presentations, or provide additional summer support for faculty research, or perhaps allow a faculty member to take advantage of visiting opportunities, she said.

“Faculty want to know that we’re in their corner, and gifts like this help provide that needed support,” she said.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Skender, who is now a faculty member at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

“It says you have somebody who has your back, that will do things that help, and I applaud Mike and Lori for that,” he said.

An opportunity for others to make an impact

Skender noted Mike Constantino is the type of person who has always brought others along with him. He helped others move up in the firm at EY, Skender noted, and encouraged his coworkers to give of their time and their resources if they were able.

“He’s given so much of himself to others, you wish everybody was like that,” Skender said.

The Poole Faculty Enrichment Fund is a testament to that. Mike and Lori hope that others will make an additional impact by supporting the fund as a way to honor a faculty member.

Making an impact is a big part of why they have supported the university and continue to do so today.

“When we do things over at NC State, there’s an impact,” Mike said. “It’s easy for us to measure the impact – part of it is the interaction we’ve had with students who have received scholarship funds from us, how bright and engaging they are, as well as the relationships we’ve built with faculty members.

Carl Messere (left) and Mike Constantino (right)

“This whole initiative isn’t about me and Lori, it’s about putting something in place as an endowment that we can build over the years,” he continued. “Everyone who wants to honor a faculty member or a staff member has a place where they can make a gift and it can be any amount.”

When he talks to others about giving of their time or resources, Constantino says that idea of impact is central. Whether through faculty, student, or general university support, contributions to Poole College and NC State are about supporting not just what’s happening at the university but the future impact on the state and the nation.

Helping a student finish school, helping a faculty member complete research they’re interested in or supporting them in their teaching initiatives – it really is about impact.

“If you want to really impact somebody’s life, in a way that can really have a lasting impact, if you support a student, help somebody finish college, that can have a huge trajectory in their lifetime,” Mike said. “Helping a student finish school, helping a faculty member complete research they’re interested in or supporting them in their teaching initiatives – it really is about impact.”

“I would challenge people to think about what they received from NC State, what it allowed them to do in their lives, and how do they take that and repay part of it.”