September 5, 2012
In Memory of Harold Frank, Friend of the College of Engineering
Engineer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Harold Frank made an impact on the lives of engineering students at UCSB
He was an innovative engineer, a veteran, an entrepreneur who started one of Santa Barbara's most successful early tech companies, and a staunch supporter of UCSB's College of Engineering. Harold R. Frank, the man for whom Harold Frank Hall is named, passed away on August 13, 2012. He was 88 years old.
The man may be gone, but his legacy lives on, in the multitude of UCSB engineering students who continue to receive the scholarships and the entrepreneurs who kickstarted their technology ventures with his support. Frank’s support of engineering students resulted in more than 50 scholarships over the course of a decade through the Technology Management Program’s Harold Frank Scholarship. This fund helped support students who were active with TMP to complete their undergraduate or graduate degree in engineering. “This is something I felt I had to do,” Frank once said. “I'd like to see students go out on their own and start their own companies to benefit mankind.”
The legacy of the Harold Frank Faculty Recruitment and Retention Fund for the College of Engineering has helped UCSB find and keep some of the brightest minds in engineering research and education. In 2006, UCSB's Engineering I building was renamed Harold Frank Hall in honor of Frank’s tremendous contribution to the College.
“Harold Frank was an extraordinary man and business-minded engineer who strongly believed in this school,” said Rod Alferness, Dean of the College of Engineering at UCSB. “He has been a friend and generous supporter of the College. His early and sustained support for our students and faculty has undoubtedly been instrumental to UCSB Engineering’s current top national rankings. Harold Frank has strongly impacted the lives of our students and has built a lasting legacy at UCSB.”
Born on May 19, 1924 in Washington, Frank was the son of immigrants Elizabeth and David, Germans from Russia who moved to Walla Walla and started a grocery store to support their nine children. Frank worked his way through one year of college at Whitman College before enlisting with the United States Army, becoming a member of the 2nd Battalion, 274th Infantry Regiment, where he was a Morse Code specialist.
Upon his return to Washington in 1946, Frank resumed his studies, this time with the help of the G.I. Bill, earning his bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering in 1948. It was the G.I. Bill that Frank credited for his progress, and the inspiration for the generosity he would later bestow on countless engineering students both at Washington State University and UC Santa Barbara.
No stranger to hard work, Frank is credited with helping to develop a magnetic tape recording process that aided in the identification of oil deposits, which was part of his work as a member of a seismograph crew for the company Conoco. His work took him to Wyoming, Oklahoma and Texas in the 1950s, after which he came to Santa Barbara with his family. Like many who come to the area for one reason or another, he was reluctant to leave. However, opportunities were lacking, a situation which Frank handled in his own indomitable way.
Frank founded Applied Magnetics Corporation (AMC) in 1957, settling in an industrial space near the Santa Barbara Airport. Building on his engineering foundation, Frank went from running a business out of a spare bedroom in his house to a company that successfully went public in the late 1960s. AMC rode the new magnetic recording wave first by making recording heads for the oil industry and then jumped into manufacturing heads for early computers. AMC tape heads went into IBM's first disk drives, $100,000 behemoths that took up half a room and stored five megabytes of data. The tape heads also went into the manufacture of progressively smaller computer drives. AMC tape heads even made it into the heavens as part of major space explorations and the Viking Mars Lander in 1976. The company grew to 21 divisions in 12 countries, employing 14,000 workers.
When asked how much of his success was luck, he responded, “One hundred percent...the harder I worked, the luckier I got.”
The company had a solid and successful 42-year life, and allowed Frank to continue to give to the UC Santa Barbara College of Engineering, earning him the school's gratitude and the renaming of one of its buildings in his honor.
Harold Frank is survived by brothers Carl, David, John and Sol Frank; his sister Frieda Wilhelm; sons Jim and Robert Frank; grandchildren James, Jessica and Tyler Frank; and godchildren Matthew and Lily Maechling.