Rocky, in so many ways, was larger than life, to include his heart. He led his life at the forefront of technology and of Catholic benevolence. With a Ph.D. in astrophysics, he was also an international authority on computers, finance and planning. He worked on the world’s first computers and was instrumental in creating the technology behind the world’s first smart phone. Holder of more than 60 patents, he served as founder and CEO of several technology companies and authored over 30 books and novels.
A Canadian by birth, and the son of a noted chef, Rocky studied at the University of Toronto, where he earned a BSC in Mathematics and Physics, and Ph.D. in Astrophysics. His first job involved setting the specifications for what would become heat shields for space vehicles. Eventually, he worked with John Mauchly — inventor of the first electronic computer —in developing the Critical Path Method for scheduling complex projects, a technique used in the creation of the Polaris intercontinental ballistic missile.
It was through Dr. Mauchly that Rocky met his wife, Barbara D’Iorio Martino ’60, who was a CHC student at the time, and a friend and classmate of Mauchly’s daughter, Sidney Mauchly ’60. Rocky and Barbara were married in 1961, and the two of them have been some of the College’s most ardent supporters ever since.
In 1965, Rocky launched his own company, RL Martino Company, (later XRT), which created systems to handle secure financial treasury management. He sold the company after 30 years, at which time it had 11,000 clients in 51 countries, processing more than $3 trillion per day through systems he and his staff designed. In the 1990s, he built and patented the CyberFone, the world’s first look at a smart phone, and very much ahead of its time.
Rocky’s accomplishments during some 65 years in technology earned him a global reputation. He lectured extensively throughout his professional life and served as a professor and department head for several universities, including the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto, and New York University. His lectures included such topics as Artificial Intelligence, Truth in Religion and Science, Information Systems, Economics, and Financial Modeling Systems. In addition to multiple books, he authored scores of papers, and numerous corporate monographs. Rocky served on numerous corporate boards throughout his storied career.
Despite his impressive achievements in business and technology, Rocky often said that his greatest accomplishments were to be found in his faith-based work. He led the efforts to restore the country’s first Catholic cathedral — Baltimore’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary — a 32-month, $34 million restoration project completed in 2006. He founded and served on the board of the Magnificat Foundation, which creates days of spiritual enlightenment held in major cities across the country.
A man of deep faith, Rocky once said, “What you do to earn a living is not necessarily the most important thing you do. I feel I’ve accomplished something if I awaken in people an interest in faith.” It is not surprising that he had a deep interest in the works of a fellow scientist and a Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., from whom he drew lasting inspiration. Like Teilhard, Rocky was a man of vision, who saw beyond the present to help create the future.
Joining the College community after his marriage to Barbara in 1961, Rocky became a familiar face on the College campus, connecting with and championing his wife in her steadfast support of her alma mater. Their allegiance to CHC was expressed in their many works of charity: through their exceptional generosity of heart, spirit of giving and passionate commitment to others.
As the new century began, the College embarked on its second capital campaign. The committee identified the need for the first new building on the College campus in more than 40 years, bringing technologically advanced classrooms to campus.
The opportunity to elevate technology in the educational experience appealed to Rocky as a pioneer and authority in the fields of computer science and space travel. But providing one of the first seven-figure gifts for Martino Hall also reflected his deep commitment to Catholic education and an appreciation for the mothers in his life. “It all just crystallized in my mind,” Rocky said at the time. “It was almost as if this opportunity came along for me.”
At the building’s dedication in 2000, Rocky honored Barbara by acknowledging her decades of leadership at the College that also included her serving as the first lay chair of the board of directors. Specifically, though, he honored her as the mother of their four children. At the ceremony, Rocky said, “I love you, Barbara, I thank you, and I honor you. That is why I’m happy that this new building, this symbol of renewal and life for Chestnut Hill College, will be called Barbara D’Iorio Martino Hall.”
Rocky and Barbara Martino’s philanthropy, at a critical time in the history of Chestnut Hill College, helped to transform the institution from a women’s college to coeducation. Without Martino Hall, it would not have been possible to welcome men to the undergraduate program. They also shared the important vision that led to the purchase of the SugarLoaf property, which added 32 much-needed acres to the campus and gave it closer proximity to the town of Chestnut Hill.
True to their unwavering dedication to the College, the couple made another generous gift, toward the purchase of the SugarLoaf property. Together, they have helped transform the CHC experience for future generations of Griffins through their philanthropic leadership and commitment to the College. Their unflagging interest in the College and its future are exemplary. The College is a far more important and successful institution because of their participation in its life.
Rocky and Barbara created the Rocco and Barbara Martino Foundation in 1990 to support Catholic education and with the objective of impacting leadership in Catholic youth.
Rocky has served on various Public Service, Charitable, and Church Organizations. He was Vice Chair of the Board of the Gregorian University Consortium Foundation, and a member of the Boards of St. Joseph’s University, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Order of Malta, and the Vatican Observatory.
Rocky was Founding Chairman of the MBF Foundation (serving 1985-1989), dedicated to applying computer technology for those with severe physical and/or mental handicaps. In 2007, he founded the Rocco Martino Lectures on Innovation, to promote studies of and education in innovation. He was a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
He is the author of five novels and some 28 non-fiction books--ranging from religious topics to the history of the computer. His first-person perspective on the early days of computing provides a bird’s eye view of many of the developments from the computer’s inception.
Rocky has also served on various committees, commissions and boards associated with technical standards; on corporate and university boards; and public service boards such as the World Affairs Council, the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and the Committee for Public Policy.
Just recently, Rocky was awarded the Grand’ Ufficiale al Merito Melitense, the highest honor bestowed by the Knights of Malta, for his countless contributions to the betterment of society and to the Roman Catholic Church. The Knights of Malta encourage and recognize nobility of spirit and conduct, through humanitarian projects and social assistance.
In 2000, Chestnut Hill College awarded Rocky an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. He also received honorary degrees from Neumann University and Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. The degrees were awarded for his humanitarian and philanthropic activities as well as for his scientific achievements.
In 1991, Pope John Paul II bestowed on him the Papal Knighthood in the Order of St. Gregory the Great. A member of the Federal Association-Order of Malta since 1988, Rocky was instrumental in establishing the organization’s Philadelphia Region. He was also initiated as a Knight in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of St. George, and the Order of St. Maurice and Lazarus.
He has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Italian American Foundation (1992), and from the Monte Jade Society, the Chinese honorific society (1999). The CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) selected him for their Hall of Fame in 2000. In this latter award, he was chosen as a symbol of excellence for youth.
Rocky was a lifetime member of the Union League of Philadelphia, a member of the Overbrook Golf Club in Bryn Mawr, and of the Yacht Club of Sea Isle City. He was an avid sailor, and a Past Commodore of the Yacht Club (1974) serving as a member of its Board from 1971-1990, and Chairman 1984-90. He served as Commodore of the Mid-Atlantic Yacht Racing Association from 1979-1981, and Secretary from 1981-1988.
In addition to his wife, Barbara, he is survived by four sons, Peter, Joseph, Paul and John, and thirteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. We pray for Barbara and the family as they grieve the loss of this giant of a man. He will be missed by many, to include the Chestnut Hill College community.
Funeral services will be held on Monday, July 6, 2020. The viewing starts at 9:30 a.m. with Mass to follow at 11:00 a.m. at St. Katherine of Siena Church (104 S. Aberdeen Ave, Wayne, PA). All are welcome.
With deepest sympathies,
Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D.