Frank S. Greene, Jr. (1938-2009)

Frank S. Greene, Jr.
Courtesy Purdue University

Frank S. Greene, Jr. is an inventor, scientist, venture capitalist investor, educator, and the first African American to graduate from the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. He is also responsible for developing the world’s fastest microchip in the 1960s.

Greene was born on October 19, 1938, in Washington, D.C, to Frank S. Greene, Sr. and Irma Olivia Swygert Greene. Frank, Jr. and his brother, Arthur, were raised in the segregated Mill Creek Valley (south of Delmar Boulevard) section of St. Louis, Missouri.

Frank graduated from Sumner High School in 1957 and enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis where he became a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and actively participated in civil rights protests. Receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in 1961, he became the first African-American cadet to complete the University’s four-year program and was commissioned during the commencement exercise as a Second Lieutenant. He earned a Master of Engineering in electrical engineering from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana in 1962. While serving in the United States Air Force as an electronics officer, Greene earned the rank of captain before being honorably discharged in 1965.

That same year, Greene began working in the Research and Development department with Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc. in Sunnyvale, California where he developed high-speed semiconductor computer memory systems. He holds the patent for the integrated circuit. 

Five years later, Greene earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California. In 1971, he became the founder and CEO of the Technology Development Corporation (TDC), a computer software and technical services company. Later, in 1985, Greene founded an offshoot of TDC called ZeroOne Systems. 

In 1993, Greene co-founded New Vista Capital, a venture capital firm focusing on assisting minority groups. Greene also shared his expertise in classrooms, teaching courses in electrical engineering and computer science at Stanford, Santa Clara, Howard, and Washington universities. He received outstanding alumni awards from Washington, Purdue, and Santa Clara universities.

Greene received numerous awards as a high achiever, including an induction into the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame in 2001. That same year, The Frank S. Greene Scholars Program was created to support students from kindergarten through high school, offering access to educational opportunities in mathematics and science. In 2002, he was awarded the Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award from Purdue. Additionally, Greene was added to the Palo Alto City Hall Most Important African-Americans in Technology list in 2009. In 2018, the Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto was renamed the Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School, in his honor. 

Greene and his wife, Phyllis, had two children, Angela W. Greene Gage and Frank S. Greene III. The elder Greene died of a heart attack on December 26, 2009 at the El Camino Hospital in Sunnyvale. He was 71.