$3 million gift establishes Entrepreneurship Institute

PULLMAN — With the purpose of assisting students who are interested in entrepreneurship and to give them the tools and experiences needed to pursue their entrepreneurial goals, Harold and Diana Frank have donated $3 million for the establishment of the Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute in the College of Engineering and Architecture.

The institute will sponsor programs designed to empower student innovators to take their ideas to the marketplace, providing support for mentors and resources to help the students create innovative products within multidisciplinary teams. The Franks’ gift will primarily be used to support student projects and competitive scholarship awards for the academic school year.

“Entrepreneurship is increasingly important for students to understand in our globally competitive marketplace,’’ said Anjan Bose, dean of the college. “Harold provides students with an inspirational success story that came about from hard work, innovation, intellectual curiosity and commitment. His and Diana’s gift ensures that future WSU students will continue to learn from his and others’ stories and their mentorship. We’re thankful to the Franks, knowing that they share in our goal of providing a world-class learning environment for our undergraduate students.”

Twelve students from engineering and business will participate in the summer institute. The program, which gets underway May 16, will entail six weeks in Pullman, where students will learn a variety of skills, ranging from team building, oral communications and marketing, to understanding patents and intellectual property. They will also have a chance to participate in all aspects of a small entrepreneurial company and work with a university research lab that is involved with technology transfer and one of the lab’s spin-off companies.

The students will work to formulate ideas for their own businesses and meet with and interview entrepreneurs. In the second six weeks of the institute, students will work for entrepreneurial enterprises from around the West. During the following school year, the students will work to develop a senior design project with potential to become a real business. With the Franks’ support, the entrepreneurship program initially got underway as a pilot last summer with eight engineering students participating. Students who participated in last summer’s pilot program developed a senior design project with entrepreneurial potential, and some entered the College of Business and Economics’ business plan competition April 1.

Harold Frank grew up in Walla Walla, where his Germans-from-Russia immigrant parents owned a grocery store. He started his education at Whitman College, working to pay his way, then transferred to Washington State College where he studied engineering. He then entered the military where he became a radio operator in the infantry, with service in the European Theater of Operations. After the war, he returned to WSC in 1948 to finish his degree with the benefit of the GI Bill. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, he went to work at Conoco, where he worked on a seismograph crew. There he helped develop a magnetic tape recording process that aided in the identification of oil deposits. He went on to found Applied Magnetics, which became a leading manufacturer of magnetic recording heads used in computers. Under his direction, the company grew to 21 divisions in 12 countries, employing 14,000.

Frank said that he was busy building his company for 40 years, but in recent years has been inspired to help students after being invited to speak to classes. He found students to be greatly interested in his story and his advice.

The GI Bill, which had been of such a help to him finishing college, gave him the inspiration to establish scholarships for others.

“This is something I felt I had to do,’’ he said. “I’d like to see students go out on their own and start their own companies to benefit mankind.’’

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