Frank Greene, Silicon Valley technology pioneer, dies at 71 | News | Palo Alto Online |


Frank Greene, Silicon Valley technology pioneer, dies at 71

Chip designer, CEO and activist inducted into Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame

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Frank S. Greene, a pioneering Silicon Valley technologist, died unexpectedly Saturday at El Camino Hospital. He was 71.

A "celebration of life" for Greene, a Sunnyvale resident, is being planned, a family member said Monday. Details will be available later this week.

Greene stood among technology giants Robert Noyce, David Packard, William Hewlett and the Varian brothers as one of 63 inductees into the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame, conferred by the Silicon Valley Engineering Council.

He was also hailed as one of the first black technologists, breaking the color barrier in local industry.

He developed high-speed semiconductor computer-memory systems at Fairchild Semiconductor R&D Labs in the 1960s. He started two technology companies and later founded NewVista Capital, a venture firm with a special focus on minority- and female-headed firms. Its headquarters, now in Sunnyvale, were previously located in Mountain View and Palo Alto.

Greene also launched the GO-Positive Foundation, which offers leadership programs with "core positive values" for high school and college students.

"Success in life is not about 'me' but about what you can do to help others," he told the Palo Alto Weekly earlier this year when he was honored as one of the 50 most important African-Americans in technology in an exhibit at Palo Alto City Hall.

Greene grew up in the highly segregated St. Louis of the 1950s, where "making it through life was a civil-rights activity in itself," he said.

When Washington University opened up to people of color, Greene said the top 10 to 15 percent of students from his high school received scholarships. He was in the second class that included black students at the university.

"We went to sit-ins to see if we could integrate some places around the school. We would sit there until the cops closed the place."

One time, Greene and his friends went to a pizza joint, where the owners were willing to serve them.

"The problem was that between us we didn't have enough money for one order, so from that day, I've always said, 'You have to be prepared for opportunity when it arrives. ... You've got to be prepared for success.' We weren't expecting to succeed, so we didn't take any money."

Greene said his technology career grew out of being in the right place at the right time.

"When (the Soviet satellite) Sputnik launched, we felt we'd be attacked from space. There was a big call to teach science, and I got a job to teach physical science," he said.

Greene was the first black cadet to make it through the four-year U.S. Air Force ROTC program in 1961. He became an Air Force captain.

Armed with a master's degree from Purdue University, he started as a test engineer at Fairchild then moved into research and development in chip design.

Greene holds the patent for the integrated circuit that made Fairchild a semiconductor leader in the late 1960s.

He earned his doctorate in electrical engineering from Santa Clara University and taught electrical engineering and computer science at five universities: Howard University, Santa Clara, Stanford University, Northwestern University and Washington University at St. Louis.

He founded two software companies, Technology Development Corp., which went public in 1985, and ZeroOne Systems Inc., which was sold to Sterling Software.

He sat on the boards of many technology start-ups as well as of Santa Clara University. He was past chairman of the board of the American Musical Theatre of San Jose and a board member of the National Conference of Community and Justice.

More recently, Greene laid out some of his ideas about leadership in his "VRE Leadership" workbooks, standing for "Vision," "Relationships" and "Execute."

"All successful leaders meet their challenges by starting with a clear vision that creates value for others," he said last year in an interview with author Tom Marcoux.

"They get everyone working together through positive relationships, and they execute at a very high level by making smart decisions."

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5 people like this
Posted by Michael Kennedy
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 28, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Just a great story - from his youth, through college, job career, and beyond. You don't casually graduate from the Air Force ROTC program.

To teach at 5 universities; hold the patent for an IC that helped make Fairchild; found 2 successful software companies...any one of these would have been a lifetime achievement.

Frank Greene - you will be sorely missed.

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Posted by PAPD - Critic
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 28, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Unsung pioneers of high tech - Frank S. Greene

Web Link

".......decided to bring the show to Palo Alto because of Police Chief Lynne Johnson's remarks last year about having her officers "make consensual contact" with blacks during the city's crime wave, he said."

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Posted by Lewis Greer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 29, 2009 at 11:49 am

I met Frank Greene a little over ten years ago through an angel investor friend when I was starting a company. Although I'd spent a few years in high-tech, I didn't know Mr. Greene even by reputation. But I liked him immediately. He was affable, humble (even more than I understood then), helpful, and generous with his time. Our paths did not cross again, but he made an impression on me that I have not forgotten.

He was a special man who added much to this world, and he will indeed be missed.

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Posted by Clarence B. Jones
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 29, 2009 at 1:00 pm

I was blessed to meet and become a friend and a working colleague of Frank. He was so dedicated to the pursuit of educational excellence and exploring ways to transmit and translate that pursuit to students in and their parents.

While the duration of our friendship was brief compared to others who knew him much longer, he had an impact on me and my work which shall endure, and inspires me to apply the wisdom and leadership module he graciously and generously shared with me.

I admired Frank. I, along with his many friends and family, mourn his passing so abruptly.

I am a better person for knowing Frank Greene

Scholar in Residence, Martin Luther King, Jr Research&Education Institute, Stanford University

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Posted by Henry Gage, Jr.
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Dr. Greene is my Father-In-Law. I've have known him for most of the time my family has lived in San Jose and Silicon Valley. He will certainly be missed by his family and loved ones.

For those who share his dream, he would want the legacy of his vision carried forward. With that said his son, daughter and myself will ask the community to contribute to one of the Not for Profits that he started. Two likely focal points are Go-Positive and the Greene Scholars Program.

These passions we have in common...

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Posted by Hyacinth C. Ahuruonye, CPA
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 29, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Dr. Frank Greene was a giant in the business, philanthropic and civic engagement arenas. He was a breakthrough and phenomenal individual. His intellect, warmth and vision will be sorely missed.

Like this comment
Posted by Hewitt R. Joyner Jr.
a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Frank was one of my 100 Black Men of America Brothers and a creative friend. Frank and I met 30 years ago when he was very sucessfully building his career in Enginering and as one of the few Back people who owned his own Corporation and able to compete with the top Engineering and Technology Corporations of the world. I was the head of the first and largest Black Non Profit Full Service Acoholism Programs in America. At the time there were not a lot of Black People willing to call themselves leaders in the Black Community. Our paths crossd again as members of the 100 Black Men of Silicon Valley. Frank had gone beyond pioneering in the corporate world to training and preparing people for leadership so that we could prepare more Black People to compete in the global market through his VRE Success Model in Leadership. I was happy to be able to collaborate with him and to pass some ideas along to him about preparing youth which he incorporated into his curricullum. We were supposed to meet this week to discuss how my course, "Creating a Meaningful Life" at San Jose State University was incorporating the VRE Concept.

The last time I saw Frank was December 18th at the Grand Holiday Party for the 100 BMSV and we were having a good time. He was the picture of health.

I will keep the concept alive and I will miss Frank.

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Posted by Bill Reichert
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 29, 2009 at 7:11 pm

I've known Frank for several years. He was a passionate, engaged, interesting, energetic, thoughtful, and very kind person. We need more people like Frank Greene. We will all miss him.

Like this comment
Posted by Sally Bachman
a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Frank Greene was a kind person, a passionate seeker of social justice and a true gentleman.

His VRE leadership program was and is simple but powerful: It emphasizes not only the concepts and actions of one leader, but also the importance of building a team of people truly motivated by the same goal. That was Frank: It was about the team.

I am one of many who will miss him as a friend, mentor, thinker, activist, motivator and creative force for social change.

Like this comment
Posted by Lucy Freedman
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2009 at 9:14 am

I have worked with Frank and read and edited recent manuals on his VRE approach to leadership over the past few years. He was dedicated to sharing his experience and knowledge with youth and adults, to being a conscious and open person, and to learning continuously. I am shocked to hear he has passed at such an early age and and saddened that his life and influence are cut short. He incorporated material from my writings and we were looking forward to further collaboration. Many thanks to our mutual friend, Jim Eaton of HP and Purdue, who introduced us. Condolences to his family and friends who will miss him greatly.

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Posted by Vivien J. Cole
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Dr. Frank Greene was one of the finest individuals that I have been blessed to meet in the business world. As a young business professional, I was given an opportunity to learn, grow and develop under his leadership and mentorship. My life was deepened and broadened through those exposures.

Dr. Greene's interest in contributing to the development of others began long ago within the development of his first company Technology Development Corporation (TDC) and then ZeroOne Systems. It is wonderful to see how he took his wisdom and insights to the next levels outside of the corporate environment into a larger world.

I am deeply saddened by his loss. My heart and prayers are with his family and friends. He truly will be missed but the fruit of his efforts will be a legacy for his family and others to build on. And the memories of his kindnesses, his humility and his interests in life and the lives of others will always bring joy to those who shared them.

May God give comfort and strength to his family at this time of loss.

Like this comment
Posted by Denise Brosseau
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2009 at 7:38 pm

I am so sorry to hear that Frank has passed! I met Frank 10 years ago when he was investing in women-run businesses and I was running the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs. We developed a friendship then and I had the pleasure of getting to know him even better over the last few years as he crafted his VRE Leadership Model. Last year, we had the chance to develop and co-lead a workshop based on his work. Frank was always a kind and gentle soul with so many hidden facets. I really enjoyed learning more each time we met. He will be sorely missed. I know his work has touched so many people throughout the US - it is hard to believe he is gone.

Please let me know when the celebration of his life will be held.

Like this comment
Posted by Juanita Lott
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Frank was a very special person, and he will indeed be missed. I met Frank about 10 years ago when I was looking for funding for my software company. Frank was an investor through New Vista Capital, but more importantly I appreciate the time he invested in me and so many others to help us realize our dreams. I have never known an instance when Frank was not available to help and support those who worked with him. I am eternally grateful for his guidance and direction. If possible, I would like to receive details regarding his services.

Like this comment
Posted by Lois Landau
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2009 at 9:16 pm

How can you thank someone like Frank Greene for all he did for you? I hopefully did that many times in the past 9 years. Frank discovered our small technology company at a WTC meeting and ended up funding us. He has served as my mentor and board member ever since. This last year we met many times as he helped us chart our path. He was thought-provoking, challenging, demanding of growth, and always kind.

My love goes with him now as he enters a new chapter in his life. May God bless him for all eternity. And once again, Frank, thank you.

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2009 at 9:14 am

Dr. Greene was an inspiring pioneer and leader in many different ways. Rest in peace.

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Posted by Debra Watkins
a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2009 at 12:40 pm

When I established the California Alliance of African American Educators (CAAAE) eight years ago, one of our goals was to create a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)initiative for African American students in Silicon Valley.

When our daughter was in high school, she babysat for Dr. Greene's daughter's children. Therefore, I knew of his remarkable accomplishments and asked him if I could name the STEM initiative after him. He humbly protested, but I prevailed. The Dr. Frank S. Greene Scholars Program (GSP) was born in 2001. With 100% of our Scholars entering college and the GSP annually hosting the only all-African American science fair in the state of California, Dr. Greene was immensely proud of this program.

I had used the VRE model very successfully with a group of under-performing high school students, and Frank and I were talking regularly about ways to expand it to more students and their parents.

The GSP is planning its own tribute at this year's science fair gala and working with the family to participate in a community-wide celebration of Frank's life. I will miss him, but his legacy will live on in the many Greene Scholars who will make their own awesome marks on the world.

May God keep the family near to His heart during this time of great sorrow.

Like this comment
Posted by Margarita Quihuis
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 31, 2009 at 1:52 pm

In addition to being a pioneer in Silicon Valley, Frank was also one of the first venture capitalists to focus on women and minority entrepreneurs. I had the privilege to work with him on his second fund with New Vista Capital. He always took the time to develop and mentor people and was passionate about individuals developing to their full potential. He will be greatly missed.

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Posted by Waitman Gobble
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Dec 31, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Thankful to have met Dr. Greene. Just after one hour's long conversation I felt inspired to take a look at things from a different perspective. He was definitely a great man and will be missed.

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Posted by Marjorie A Craig
a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2010 at 7:23 am

Dr. Greene was a quiet, gentle giant who impacted the lives of many in education, in civic life,business,and professional development, including first generation African-American engineering/technology students and faculty at SJSU.
May his family find comfort in his legacy of love and servic to others. Because he did, his impact will be felt by many future generations.

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Posted by Mark Duncan
a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Dr. Greene will be remembered and chronicled in our Silicon Valley history, first as a pioneer engineer, that I know inspired more young children, young & mature adults in this and many other minority communities! I also was inspired by having met and then knowing Dr. Greene as a father first and then discovering who he really was!

I feel blessed and and a richer more dutiful man as a result of having met Dr Greene...It is with utmost respect and humbleness that I get to say I knew Dr. Greene!

I'd like to extend my condolences to the immediate & extended family, and would like to say to the Family .... that I believe "Dr Greene will be more with you now ... then ever before!"


Mark Duncan

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Posted by Otis Watson
a resident of another community
on Jan 4, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Dr. Frank Greene was an outstanding gentleman, scholar and educator. To have known him is a blessing within itself. I am thankful for the opportunity to have had a final lunch appointment with him, when I did.

May his legacy and accomplishments in life be forever known.

Like this comment
Posted by Jack Windom
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Frank was a high school friend at Sumner High Schook, St. Louis. I was pleased to learn about his distinguished career, and I regret that he has passed. I extend my condolence to his family. I knew Frank as simply as smart and decent person who was very respectul of and pleasant to all.

Like this comment
Posted by Colleen Weed Grady
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2010 at 3:36 am

Frank was a high school classmate of mind at Sumner High School, St Louis, Mo. He was a very nice and friendly person. My memory of him is our senior year when we both were running for treasurer of the senior class. I beat him by two votes.. His locker was next to mind and as he was closing his locker he smiled and said congradulations. I have never forgotten that.
I am sorry to hear about his passing.

Like this comment
Posted by Colleen Weed Grady
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2010 at 3:36 am

Frank was a high school classmate of mind at Sumner High School, St Louis, Mo. He was a very nice and friendly person. My memory of him is our senior year when we both were running for treasurer of the senior class. I beat him by two votes.. His locker was next to mind and as he was closing his locker he smiled and said congradulations. I have never forgotten that.
I am sorry to hear about his passing.

Like this comment
Posted by Boob Ulicki
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Dr. Frank Greene will indeed be missed. I feel very fortunate to have been a student of his at Santa Clara University during the 1968 - 1972 years. He showed a genuine interest in all of us who attended his classes. I would have to say that independent of his awards and accomplishments, Frank was a human being who cared about others.

I will miss him as a part of our culture here in Silicon Valley.

Bob Ulicki, MSEE '72 - a student of Frank Greene.

Like this comment
Posted by Betty Dunson
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm

My condolences to the Frank Greene family.

It is with sadness that I learned of the death of my dear friend of forty years-Frank Greene. He made many contributions to the City of San Jose and he shared his talents and financial contributions, in particular to our precious resource-the youth of our community.

He will be missed by all.

Betty Dunson

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Posted by Carlene Young, EdD PhD
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm

In addition to his professional and technical acumen, Frank was a champion for youth, mentor to young professionals, and a dear friend for more than twenty years.

Frank was always accessible and giving of his time and expertise.
He exhibited a genuine caring and support for others that is not easily replaced.

My prayers are with the family as they deal with their loss.

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Posted by Carlita Maupin Broussard
a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2010 at 12:58 am

Frank Greene . . . fellow band member . . . Sumner High School in St. Louis Missouri. Listed in 1956 yearbook as future Electrical Engineer, Honor Society President, Student Council, Jr. Academy of Science, Tennis Team, Senior Band. Remembered as a very serious student with rare class as a young fellow band member. Proud to have known him.

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Posted by Marian Hirsch
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2010 at 5:40 pm

It's with deep gratitude that I remember Dr. Frank Greene. His software company was my very first client in 1983, and his belief in my capabilities helped launch my consulting career. I didn't assume then, as a young woman, that I'd be taken seriously, but in his warm, low-key way, Frank immediately made me feel part of the team. Frank showed so many people where that first rung of the ladder was on their climb to success.

To his family, may Frank Greene's memory be for a blessing.

Like this comment
Posted by Mindseed Corporation
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Mr. Greene was a fellow "chocolate chip" from the old days in Silicon Valley. We were working on a board game called "Black Americans of Achievement". We were shocked to hear of his passing, as he had just visited us several days before and said he would see us after the holidays. Our sorrow for the loss to so many.

Edwin and Joanne Anderson

Like this comment
Posted by Sondra Garcia
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2010 at 9:29 am

I have been travelling for the past month or so and just found out about Frank. I am shocked and so deeply saddened by his sudden passing. For the past four years, I have worked with Frank, editing some of his leadership material and also co-writing his latest book, "Create the Future you Want" for high school and middle school students. I had just spoken with him before Christmas about another guide he wanted to create to help parents help their kids with VRE. Frank was such an inspiration to me. His positive and humble attitude were unique and really made a difference in my life. I will miss him enormously and will always remember our wonderful conversations, his laugh, and his phrase "If you've done it before, you can do it again." His legacy will live on in the many, many people he has positively influenced during his lifetime.

Like this comment
Posted by Frank Greene 3
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2012 at 11:45 pm

My Dad was very serious about helping students to have every advantage in this life. I only wish even more people could have met him. They would have been so happy they had!

Like this comment
Posted by Frank Greene III
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 3, 2013 at 12:07 am

I miss you

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