Charlie Constantino is remembered for philanthropy, global impact through PAR Technology

Charlie Constantino

Businessperson and philanthropist Charles A. Constantino, 83, passed away on Nov. 21, leaving a legacy of local philanthropy that left a positive impact on Rochester and Central New York as well as globally.

A proud first-generation American, Constantino learned at a young age from his Sicilian parents to embrace family and a strong work ethic. His first job was behind a cash register at Caccamo’s market on Central Park in the city of Rochester. This job that his mother, Fannie, lovingly pushed him to at age 13 would prove to be a foreshadowing.

Two decades later, from behind a cash register at his McDonald’s store, Fannie would steer Constantino toward disruptive technology for point-of-sale (POS) systems worldwide. However, there would be numerous cash-register rings and decades of hard work before “success” would be deemed by stock-market numbers.

Constantino was schooled at St. Francis Xavier on Bay Street and graduated from East High School in 1957. He went on to be a member of the fifth graduating class of St. John Fisher College in 1961. He earned a master’s degree in applied mathematics and computer science from the University of Rochester and completed all-but-dissertation work for a PhD at Syracuse University.

In 2001, Constantino was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from St. John Fisher College (now St. John Fisher University), where he served on the college board for more than 40 years and as chairperson from 1998 to 2001. He was very proud that more than 30 members of his immediate and extended family graduated from Fisher, including two of his children.

He and his wife, Elaine, created the Constantino Family Scholarship and the Fannie & Sam Constantino First Generation Scholarship program at Fisher. Hundreds of students have earned degrees from Fisher and immeasurable opportunities by way of these scholarships.

While working as mathematician for the U.S. Department of Defense at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, N.Y. he met engineer John Sammon, and together they co-founded PAR Corp. in 1968 (PAR = Pattern Analysis and Recognition). PAR’s government work included running operations at Cheyenne Mountain and helping Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf turn the “Mother of All Battles” into the “Mother of All Retreats” during the Persian Gulf War, ultimately saving thousands of American soldiers’ lives.

Today known as PAR Technology, the company is publicly traded as PAR on the New York Stock Exchange and retains a government division and commercial division. The commercial side was launched in the 1970s when Constantino revolutionized point-of-sale (POS) systems for restaurants and retail.

PAR’s POS work was initiated through Constantino’s ownership of five McDonald’s stores, where he worked directly with McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc to improve several practices for franchises nationwide even before the revolutionary POS system.

These new McDonald’s practices included the addition of suggestive selling, a restructuring of mandated advertising, and the ability to construct McDonald’s stores in small-population communities, as he did in Canandaigua. Constantino joined Kroc in making videos at McDonald’s headquarters to introduce these new practices companywide. He had been on Kroc’s radar after earning the company’s coveted “Archie Award” for highest achievement when pursuing his operator’s license.

Constantino’s mother is credited for influencing the launch of PAR’s POS system. As a trainer for his stores, she witnessed math errors during counter transactions and persuaded Constantino and PAR to create the revolutionary system. Today there are more than a half-million PAR terminals in retail and hospitality operations in more than 110 countries. PAR systems not only make ordering at fast-food restaurants more accurate but also more efficient. In essence, Constantino helped ensure the word “fast” in fast food.

In addition to PAR, Constantino’s business ventures with colleagues included Flare Gate, Steriliz, Charlie Bubbles restaurant chain, and co-ownership of The Strathallan hotel for 20 years. He also consulted and guided dozens of Rochester area businesses.

A lifelong sports fan, Constantino attended the Mickey Mantle & Whitey Ford Yankees Fantasy Camp and forged a friendship with Mantle. Together, they produced a successful videotape series starring Mantle and supported philanthropic ventures.

Constantino encouraged compassion and kindness and often advised his children and grandchildren of a lesson his parents taught him: “Do what you can, when you can, for as many people as you can. Help others.”

In addition to St. John Fisher College, Constantino’s philanthropic efforts included Rochester General Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House in the Rochester area and Rome Catholic High and the Larry DeLutis Baseball Complex in Rome.

In Central New York he was inducted into the Catholic Schools Association of Rome Hall of Fame and the Rome Sports Hall of Fame and was honored with the Mohawk Valley Leadership EDGE Award.

Constantino is survived by his wife of 61 years, who was with him when he passed, overlooking his beloved Canandaigua Lake. He is also survived by his brother, Dr. Richard Constantino, a medical doctor with the Rochester Regional Health and with whom he shared a close bond.

Constantino is also survived by his four children — Chuck Constantino, Cindy Constantino-Gleason, Caryn Hurwitz, and Sam Constantino — as well as their spouses, 11 grandchildren, and several cousins, nieces, nephews, and close friends.

A celebration of his life will be held at St. John Fisher University on Dec. 2.

Arrangements are through Memorials may be made in his memory to the Fannie & Sam Constantino First Generation Scholarship Program at St. John Fisher University, 3690 East Avenue, Rochester, New York 14618.

Dresden Engle is a friend of the Constantino family and is currently editing Charlie Constantino’s autobiography, which Constantino completed before his passing.