During the month of February, we pause to honor the efforts and triumphs of Black Americans. Their contributions have impacted every area of our modern life – from politics and government to sciences and the humanities. Many worked in relative obscurity and yet, their groundbreaking work, ingenuity and vision have moved society forward.
Many of us know Thomas Edison to be the father of modern-day electricity, yet it was one of his collaborators, Lewis Howard Latimer, who has served as inspiration to many young and aspiring innovators.
Latimer became an inventor and drafter after serving in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. He is best known for his contributions to the patenting of the light bulb and telephone, through his collaboration with Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. His own inventions include an improved railroad car bathroom and an early version of the air conditioning unit.
Latimer’s talents were well-suited to a post-Civil War world that saw a shift toward the Industrial Revolution.
At PPL, we are proud to work alongside team members who embody the spirit of Latimer – like Francis Frank, director of Grid Modernization for PPL Electric Utilities.
From a young age, Frank was intrigued by electricity. Having grown up on the island of Grenada, he was in tune to the many natural resources the island was underutilizing to power the 132-square-mile Caribbean island.
“We experienced many lengthy power outages on the island,” said Frank. “Additionally, they were not embracing the natural resources that they have – sunlight, wind and waterfalls – and their potential to power hydro generating stations.”
As a young student, Frank was inspired by the African proverb “Forward ever, backward never,” which was made popular by Grenadian revolutionary Maurice Bishop.
“That phrase encapsulated my desire to continuously grow and improve,” Frank said.
And that he did – ambitiously pursuing an associate degree in electronics and then moving to the U.S. in 2003 to pursue a degree in telecommunications and information technology at Kean University. To further round out his skill set, Frank later went on to obtain an MBA from Rutgers University with a dual concentration in finance and strategy.
His pioneering spirit to improve performance and reliability has served Frank well over a distinguished 15-year career advancing automation and grid modernization in the energy sector throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Frank is currently leading PPL Electric’s grid modernization efforts, which include using smart grid technology to identify, isolate and resolve power issues more efficiently. His team is also actively involved in distributed energy resource management (DERM) initiatives aimed at connecting renewable energy, like solar, to PPL’s power grid.
“This is an exciting time for PPL and the industry,” said Frank. “The grid continues to evolve, and we are working not only in Pennsylvania but in Kentucky, Virginia and Rhode Island to become the utility of the future. We want to use technology to make the grid more resilient, ensuring that it can sustain the payload of modern technologies like electric vehicles, while also ensuring affordability.”
Frank recognizes that a natural love and curiosity for technology and innovation have been vital ingredients for success.
“Integrating technology with a utility has allowed me to be a leader in the space and has given me the career opportunity I have today,” said Frank.
A career that he has leveraged to help make life better for others. Francis is president of a charity started by his mother’s family several years ago aimed at helping young people in Grenada pursue their high school and secondary education.
“I am a strong believer in paying it forward,” Frank said. “If each of us could help one person, if each of us could inspire one person, then we have done our job.”