Entrepreneurial spirit

Henry A. Panasci Jr., 1928-2005

Henry Panasci Jr., and his father, Henry Panasci Sr., behind the counter at the first Fay's Drug Store in Syracuse, New York, in 1958.

At just seven years old, Henry Panasci Jr. began his entrepreneurial journey in his father’s store, doing tasks like stacking penny candy.

After earning a UB degree in chemistry in 1948 and a UB pharmacy degree in 1952, Panasci saw his business dreams became a reality when he opened a drug store with his father in 1958.

But first, they needed a name.  

“We wanted a name that was short and catchy; we didn’t think ‘Panasci’s Pharmacy’ had much of a ring,” Panasci said in a 1998 interview in UB Today. So they decided on Fay’s Drugs, named after Panasci’s wife, Faye. The duo purposely dropped the “e” to save money on the cost of signs.

Panasci led the company to diversify beyond its core drugstore business by launching The Paper Cutter and Wheels Discount Auto Supply, and expanded Fay’s to 270 retail stores with $1 billion in revenue by the time it merged with a large national retailer in 1996.

To encourage more students to become entrepreneurs themselves, Panasci made the $1 million gift to UB in 1999 that established the popular annual technology entrepreneurship competition that bears his name.

“The future depends on entrepreneurs, and we need to support their efforts,” Panasci said. “The entrepreneurial award will encourage new business growth in Upstate New York by providing seed money for the new business ventures.”

Panasci modeled the competition after one that MIT had been running for 10 years, and recognized the important role of mentorship in both the competition and the early development of startups.

“Investment dollars are only one need of a startup business,” Panasci said. “Equally important will be the potential for mentoring support and marketplace connections that judges and other interested parties can bring to such an effort.”

The Panasci family also has been a generous benefactor to UB’s School of Pharmacy, including a $1 million gift to fund the atrium of the Pharmacy Building in 2009.

Sources: UB Today, UB Now