Signaling the Value of Education
The late Harold Frank was a World War II veteran, engineer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Before he achieved any of those distinctions, he was the eighth of nine children born to German immigrants. After the GI Bill gave Harold a chance to finish his education, he resolved to create opportunities for all students, especially those who shared his experience as a first generation American. UC Santa Barbara’s Harold Frank Hall bears his name in tribute to his guidance and his visionary investment in the College of Engineering. As a member of the Gold Circle Society, Harold and his family are among the university’s premiere philanthropists.
Harold worked four jobs while attending community college before he was drafted into World War II. His fluency in Morse code and German, which his family spoke at home and in church, earned him respect as a radio operator in the Army Signal Corps. Harold discovered a love of recording technology that would evolve into Applied Magnetics, the company he founded in 1957 in the spare bedroom of his Santa Barbara home.
Applied Magnetics became a leading manufacturer of magnetic recording heads used in computers and was once the second-largest employer in Santa Barbara County. As the company grew, so did Harold’s need for engineers and his relationship with campus. Applied Magnetics hired many UC Santa Barbara alumni, and Harold contributed his expertise to the UC Santa Barbara Foundation Board of Trustees from 1981-87.
“Everybody who worked for my father looked up to him,” said his son Jim. “He engendered a loyalty that he didn’t ask for; it just evolved.”
Long-time employee Ellicott Million watched Applied Magnetics grow from a local business to a global leader. Ellicott began as a secretary for two vice presidents plus Harold in 1963 and became Harold’s right-hand woman. Now, Ellicott and Jim manage the Raintree Foundation, which Harold established in 1987 to support education.
Through philanthropy, the Raintree Foundation helps UC Santa Barbara recruit and enrich College of Engineering faculty, who in turn provide students with research opportunities and a world-class education. The foundation also endowed the Harold Frank Scholars Fund in UC Santa Barbara’s Technology Management Program to inspire student entrepreneurs.
“Eight or nine students would come up to the ranch to meet Harold, one class after another,” said Ellicott. “Each one would give him a run-down of what they were studying and why, and they would talk about engineering together.”
The Frank family has an 18-year legacy of philanthropy in support of UC Santa Barbara. In addition to longtime leadership within the College of Engineering, the Raintree Foundation has supported Sedgwick Reserve and the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration. The foundation also supports a tech incubator and student scholarships at Washington State University, Harold’s alma mater. As an entrepreneur, Harold felt motivated to help engineering students learn from top faculty and apply that education creatively.
“This is something I felt I had to do,” Harold said in an interview before he passed away in 2012. “I’d like to see students go out on their own and start their own companies to benefit mankind.”
In 2009, the UC Santa Barbara College of Engineering recognized Harold with its Exemplary Service Award. Harold made a profound impact on UC Santa Barbara’s community of engineering scholars.
“The Raintree Foundation has been a pivotal partner in enhancing our ability to hire the finest and brightest faculty in engineering,” said Rod Alferness, dean of the College of Engineering. “Harold Frank truly understood how great faculty attract great students, providing an unparalleled educational experience for our undergraduate and graduate students.”
“The future of our country is going to be based on making wise decisions,” said Jim. “My father saw the importance of investing in education.”