David Panasci has fond memories of his family’s business–Fay’s Drugs–founded in 1958 by his father and grandfather, and named for his mother, Faye Panasci. He also had his own name for the business.
“I never called it Fay’s; I called it ‘Dad’s’ because it’s where my dad worked,” Panasci recalled. “I always thought ‘this is a neat place to be.’ ”
Panasci remembers how his grandfather and father were often giving back to their community through their work.
“One of the things that attracted them to the profession was that they would be community pharmacists. They were in touch with people and were able to help them every day. Their work spilled out into the community,” he said.
David’s grandfather, Henry A. Panasci Sr., graduated from the University at Buffalo in 1924 and worked long hours, saving “every penny he made,” Panasci recalled.
“He worked ridiculous hours because quality of life issues weren’t a factor. He was an immigrant, trying to make money and living the American dream. The money that he saved during the Depression was the seed money for Fay’s,” Panasci said.
His grandfather thrived on helping his customers. “Every time a patient came to see him, he wanted to make sure they walked out of store with what they needed to get better,” Panasci said.
David’s father, Henry Jr., who earned a UB degree in chemistry in 1948, then a UB pharmacy degree in 1952, “was more enthused by the business aspects of the pharmacy profession.” His father’s dream was to build a company that would provide “one-stop shopping” in order to cater to the customers’ every need.
In 1958, the father-son team fulfilled their dream in co-founding Fay’s, named after David’s mother, but without the “e” in order to save space and expense on the store signs. With Henry Panasci Jr.’s keen business sense, the business grew to 280 locations and $1 billion in annual sales by the time it merged with a large national retailer in 1996.
“He had a methodical view of where the opportunities always were—and the opportunities were where the people lived. He had a very good nose for choosing locations,” Panasci said.
The more success they experienced, the more his grandfather and father emphasized the obligation to give back to their communities, he said.
“I don’t remember how young I was, but my father would say ‘You have to do this,’ It was a value that he regularly emphasized to my sister and me,” Panasci said.
Giving to one’s community, and in particular, supporting education, has been a longtime tradition in the Panasci family. Both Henry Panasci Sr. and Jr. gave to their alma mater in order to support student scholarships. In 1999, Henry Jr. gave $1 million to UB to create the popular annual technology entrepreneurship competition that bears his name.
The tradition continued when Faye Panasci, her son, David, and daughter, Beth Leventhal, gave $1 million to fund the atrium of the Pharmacy Building.
“Knowing how important the pharmacy school was to Henry and his father, I am delighted to be able to support the construction of the new building and the future of the school,” Mrs. Panasci said.
David Panasci said his grandfather, who died in 1993, and his father, who passed away in 2005, would be “thrilled to be giving once again to the University at Buffalo and to the pharmacy school.”
“UB and the pharmacy school were a positive experience for my grandfather and father, no question about that. They had a very strong sense of loyalty,” he said. “My father especially would be so excited about giving back because of the growth the university and the school have seen in the past few years.”
Panasci said the atrium is very fitting for his family to support, because no such space exists currently and it “offers the school a renewed sense of community for the students and faculty.”
Panasci said he also hopes that the gift from his family will inspire others to support the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences because of the educational opportunities it offers future generations.
“I have no hesitation asking others to give to the university. I feel so positive about the future of the pharmacy school and UB overall. I think it is just a tremendous investment. For students, especially those in upstate New York, I think it offers a wonderful opportunity to get the best education.”