Frank S. Vigilante, a longtime AT&T executive and leader in electronic telephone switching systems technology, died after a brief illness on Tuesday, March 8, in Boynton Beach, Florida. He was 91.
Frank, an outspoken first generation Italian-American with a head of thick white hair and a Brooklyn accent, had the natural ability to command any room he was in. He embodied the definition of New York tough. He always credited four things that influenced his life’s path: growing up during the Great Depression, a stint in the U.S. Army, meeting his wife, Diane, and going to college on the G.I. Bill.
Born in 1930, Frank was raised in Brooklyn, in a family of plumbers. He grew up with a love for the Brooklyn Dodgers and a curiosity about engineering. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and enlisted in the U.S Army during the Korean War. Frank met his future wife, Diane Berg, while stationed in Colorado and they married in California in 1952. Frank attended San Mateo Junior College, followed by the University of California at Berkeley to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming an engineer. Frank received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and graduated from Berkeley as a top student in 1957. He was recruited by Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., as a member of technical staff working on the design of Electronic Switching System (ESS) technologies. He continued his education and received a Master’s in Electrical Engineering from New York University. Frank worked on several ESS systems over the next 13 years until he became Director of ESS with an organization of several hundred engineers, technicians and programmers. In 1970, Frank was promoted to AT&T and became the Chief Engineer for Switching for the Bell System. He was inducted as a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for contributions and leadership in the development of Electronic Switching Systems. He earned 15 patents for various innovations. During his career he held many leadership positions in the Bell System and AT&T. He was called on to testify before Congress during hearings about the AT&T breakup. He retired as Senior Vice President of AT&T.
Frank collaborated with brilliant innovators throughout his career, including his closest business partner, cellphone pioneer Amos Joel. Frank retired from AT&T in 1987 and worked as a consultant. He served on several committees at Visiting Nurse Association Health Group (VNAHG). He was Chairman of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) Hospice Board of Directors. He loved trees and served as Shade Tree Commissioner of Piscataway Township during the 1960s. After retiring, Frank enjoyed owning and racing horses at Monmouth Park and other tracks. He was a 50-year member of the Shrewsbury River Yacht Club, serving as Commodore in 1980 and as Membership Chair for many years. Frank and his late wife Diane traveled all over the world, but his favorite destination was always Italy. He enjoyed cooking and keeping a sharp eye on sports, stocks, and news events. Above all, he valued spending time with his family over a good plate of pasta.
Frank is survived by his children and their spouses, Patricia and Robert, Frank and Nancy, John and Penny. He loved his grandchildren, Abby, Hank, Rachel, Steven, Laura, P.J., Katie, and Brooke, and his great grandchildren, Heidi, Graham, Hannah, and Reid.
Visitation will be held Saturday, March 19, 2022 from 3-6 pm at Thompson Memorial Home, 310 Broad St, Red Bank, NJ 07701. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations in Frank’s memory may be directed to VNAHG HospiceAttn: Philanthropy Department, 23 Main St. Suite D1, Holmdel, NJ 07733.