United Lens Company (ULC) was founded by Fileno DiGregorio and his brother Sabatino DiGregorio in 1916. They started out as a small shop with only $450 in capital and one molding furnace.
In 1934, ULC was incorporated and officially became United Lens Company, Inc.
In 1935, Sabatino left the company to return to his family in Italy.
Anthony Deterando joined the business in 1936 as Vice President.
Shortly after, Fileno’s sons Albert (Al), Richard, Raymond and Ronald all joined the business in 1937.
WWII began in 1939, and ULC was called upon by the U.S. government to supply lens blank elements for critical military instruments being developed.
ULC celebrated their 25th year of business in 1941.
In the late 1940s, we also expanded our molding facility space and added an area to include larger offices and a main stocking room for our finished molded products.
Al became Plant Superintendent in 1950.
Ronald became Assistant Plant Manager in 1957.
Richard DiGregorio was promoted to Plant Manager in 1953.
In 1959, Fileno was designated “Boss of the Year” by the Southbridge Chapter of the National Secretaries Association for his outstanding leadership qualities.
ULC had a devastating fire in 1960 that burned down almost half of the building. Out of pure determination to succeed despite the fire, we were back up and running the next day. Repairs were being made to one side of the building while parts were being made on the other.
In 1963, Fileno met privately in Italy with Pope Paul VI.
Fileno was awarded the “Man of the Year” Award by the Don Orion Home in East Boston in 1964.
Al became Executive Vice President of United Lens in 1965, while Anthony was also promoted to Assistant to the President.
ULC celebrated their 50th year of business in 1966.
In the mid 1960s, we expanded further, adding on additional space to encompass increased cutting abilities and storage for our molding tools. We also added additional warehousing space in a separate building, directly across the street from the main facility.
Fileno received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humanities from Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, New Hampshire for “fifty years of civic and philanthropic leadership and benevolence.”
In 1969, ULC made it to the moon! Apollo 11 had landed on the moon, transmitting pictures back to Earth through a lens made from ULC blanks.
ULC began making sagged blanks in 1970.
In 1972, Fileno received both the Distinguished Citizen Award from Governor Sargent of Massachusetts and a Commendation from President Nixon.
We began grinding and polishing flat lenses in 1973, as well as offering thin-film coating services. Fileno also received an Official Citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives that same year.
A few years later, we expanded again, adding additional space to accommodate our rapidly increasing demand for machined blanks.
Fileno celebrated his 90th birthday with a party thrown inside the plant with all his employees. Fileno was honored by his business associates in the glass industry as well receiving special gifts from Corning Glass Works and SCHOTT Optical Glass, Inc. to mark this important milestone. Among the many cards, telegrams and letters of congratulations were a special citation from former Governor Sargent and a letter from President Ford.
In 1978, UL West opened in Anaheim, CA, stocking fine annealed glass and providing various machining services utilizing the STC, ID saws, CNC edgers and other milling machines.
During 1978, Anthony passed away, Richard got promoted to Vice President and Ronald to Vice President of Sales.
William (Bill) Lannon started work at ULC in 1979 and was quickly promoted from Utility Operator to Coating Technician.
The ULC team mourned the death of their founder, Fileno DiGregorio, who passed away in 1980 at 95 years of age. Al became the President and treasurer of ULC shortly after, with empowered determination to carry on the family business.
The Service Center department opened in 1982 and started offering added machining services to the already existing molded blanking capabilities, as well as an optional machined blank alternative.
In the early 1980s, we began a large expansion which would add on a second and third floor to be used for both additional offices and production space.
UL West closed down in 1983 and all machining services were moved back to the main facility in Southbridge, MA.
ULC acquired Universal Blank Company from Henry DiGregorio.
Paul DiGregorio started work at ULC in 1982 as a Production Assistant after working at Universal Blank Company. Later in 1986, Paul was promoted to Service Center Sales Manager and then to Service Center Manager in 1989.
Bill became an Instrument Sales Correspondent in 1980, was further promoted to Optical Shop Manager in 1985, and by 1989, he had worked his way up to Optical Fabrication Manager.
Bill became Vice President of Optical Fabrication, and Richard DiGregorio retired in 1990.
Ronald DiGregorio retired in 1992.
Al became Chairman of the Board and CEO of ULC in 1996, while Paul was promoted to Vice President.
By 1997, with the amount of work ULC was now processing each day, they began to be known for their speedy 1-week deliveries on blanks, and as a motivational reminder, the ULC mascot “Speedy” the dog was created and hung in the Service Center production area, where it still hangs today.
In 2003, Al became President, Chairman of the Board, and CEO of ULC then retired several years later in 2009, but remained seated on the Board of Directors.
Paul also had a few career advancements, being named Vice President and General Manager in 2003 and Vice President of Sales by 2005.
Bill continued to rise quickly through the ranks at ULC, holding several titles over the years; Director of ULC and Vice President of Optical Fabrication in 2002, Executive Vice President in 2004, and then later in the year, he became the President and COO.
Tara (Lannon) King started work at ULC full time in 2006 as a Clerk in the Sales Office.
Maxwell (Max) Lannon started working at ULC part-time on the production floor in 2008.
Al DiGregorio passed away in 2010. Bill later became CEO, President, and Chairman of the Board, and Max began working full-time at ULC as a Coating Technician.
The decision was also made in 2010 to merge the Sales Offices of all four internal departments together as one, so the company could work together more cohesively.
Tara was promoted to Sales Manager in 2011 and took lead on the transition of the Sales Offices.
Max was promoted to Process Engineer & Maintenance Technician in 2013 and joined ULC’s Export Control Team in 2014.
In 2014, David (Dave) Proulx was promoted to General Manager after establishing himself as a vital team member throughout his already 20 year career at ULC, where he held various other important roles as a Machinist, Supervisor, and then Production Manager of our Service Center department.
Later in 2014, the ULC marketing team published their first blog post, ULC Supports Local College, on the company website.
We also went completely paperless in 2015, released an updated website, joined the conversation on LinkedIn and Twitter, and released our first eBook, A Guide to Debris Shield Manufacturing & Procurement.
In 2016, ULC celebrated our 100th year in business with valued customers as well as all the employees who worked to get us to 100 years.
In 2016, ULC also expanded capabilities to include spherical polishing, Max became the Empowered Official for all Export Controls, we published two new educational eBooks, Pioneering in Polishing with OptiPro Pro 160P and A Guide to Thin Film Coating, and launched our online store, featuring Test Plates / Mirror Blanks and Laser Debris Shields.
The momentum held through the year as ULC partnered with Quinsigamond Community College, joining the board for the Innovative Technology Acceleration Center (ITAC) program to bring Optics Manufacturing Education to Southbridge, MA. We then filmed an episode for the television series ‘How It’s Made’ on how to manufacture witness samples.
In early 2017, Max was promoted to Director of Engineering, the company released their Coating Performance Specifications Chart, and our episode on how to manufacture witness samples officially made its debut in Canada as a part of ‘How It’s Made,’ Season 23, Episode 28. Check out the full episode now.
Robert (Bob) Hulecki was brought on as ULC’s new CFO in 2018, and the company created a new eBook, The Importance of Correctly Specified Glass.
ULC broke ground on a $15 million dollar renovation project in 2019 to upgrade all the key functions within the main facility as well as build a brand new state-of-the-art utilities building.
Meanwhile in 2019, Paul DiGregorio retired, and Tara King was promoted to Executive Vice President.
ULC was declared an Essential Business during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, and remained open in order to continue providing vital optics to the medical and military industries.
Two new educational eBooks were also developed and released, The Advantages of Wiresaw Slicing and The Advantages of Magneto-Rheological Finishing (MRF).