Founder of United Lens Company
Born in Bolognano, a small village in the province of Pescara, Italy, Fileno came to the U.S. for the first time in 1901 at the age of 16, with big dreams of happiness and fortune in America. Fileno worked in the stone quarries of Pennsylvania, saving every penny he earned, determined to open his own business one day. In 1907, Fileno was summoned to serve in the Italian Army for 18 months, fulfilling his military obligation in the Italian Infantry. When finished, he returned to America with his new wife and first born child to settle in Southbridge, Massachusetts, a small manufacturing town nicknamed “The Eye of the Commonwealth,” for it was a prominent center for optical manufacturing. Fileno began work at American Optical, where he worked in various capacities, continuing to save for his dream.
Once United Lens opened in 1916, Fileno grew the business by selling blanks to local opticians. When his brother and business partner, Sabatino, decided to leave the business and return to Italy, Fileno, a father of 8 (7 boys and 1 girl), employed his son-in-law and later his three sons to help grow the business further.
Soon United Lens was the largest manufacturer of molded blanks in the world. Fileno was a man admired by all who met him—determined and incredibly hard working. Fileno believed that everyone deserved a chance. Many times, he was found sponsoring the immigration of his former countrymen and providing them with jobs at ULC. Over the span of his life, Fileno accomplished so much more than many would have thought possible for an Italian immigrant during his time.
Building an incredibly successful business with only $450 in startup capital—all while starting a life here in America and raising a family—he became a great role model for what hard work, determination and generosity can earn someone.
Throughout all of his accomplishments and numerous awards, Fileno was best described by Commander Joseph Bosco of the Department of Massachusetts Italian-American War Veterans of the U.S. Inc., “Fileno DiGregorio, the modest immigrant with humble beginnings. Who, lacking financial resources and without opportunity of an education, nevertheless utilized his latent abilities with great perspective and vision. By perseverance, industriousness, business acumen, sincerity and honesty, Fileno was able to pioneer the optical field to the proportions of an international industrialist. Moreover, these accomplishments and material successes are not a coveted possession of greed, but rather unselfishly and unreservedly shared with his employees, his fellow townspeople, his family and with humbleness dedicated to innumerable civic, benevolent and philanthropic causes, for which he refuses credit and praise. For these attributes and because he best represents the ideals of true Americanism, we take pride in bestowing upon him our ‘Man of the Year’ Award.”
Taking the time to participate and extend a helping hand to numerous charitable organizations from the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, Assumption College, Hahnemann Hospital Building Fund, Harrington Hospital Building Fund, St. Mary’s High School Building Fund, American Cancer Society, Muscular Dystrophy, Home for Italian Children in Boston, and the Worcester Junior College. Fileno’s interests were not solely in the business of making lenses—he had an aptitude for sharing and giving support for the betterment of the people and believed everyone deserved a chance. Fileno had a true enthusiasm for life and maintained a sincere outlook on physical fitness, forever aiding those who wanted to participate in any health program, even becoming the chief donor towards Harrington Memorial Hospital’s new Cardiac Diagnostic Center in 1974. Fileno DiGregorio earned respect, admiration and appreciation by his constant unselfish devotion, assistance and loyalty to his family, adopted country and employees.
See the history of United Lens and learn more about Fileno and the legacy he created.