Francis X. Basile
2019 Inductee, CIT Group
Francis X. Basile was the second of two sons born to Giampaolo and Florence Basile. Giampaolo had immigrated to New York City from a small town in the mountains of Abruzzo; Florence was born in Manhattan, also to southern Italian immigrants. Florence and her sister, Antonetta, married Giampaolo and his brother Piero in a joint ceremony. All settled in the northeast Bronx. Francis arrived June 2,1932.
Frank was a regular New York City kid of the Depression Era. He went to elementary school around the corner from the apartment house where he lived, then Olinville Junior High and DeWitt Clinton High School. He liked to hang out with his friends on Bronx Boulevard, play stickball, and sometimes dance on Saturday night. For extra money he worked as a soda jerk at Schrafft’s. He kept his hair slicked back and a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his shirt sleeve.
Despite appearances, Frank was a serious student inclined toward practical matters. His father, a hairdresser and talented self-taught painter, was disabled by diabetes when Frank was only a boy and died at 53. Florence pitched in, working as a bookkeeper for a music publishing company, but family finances were always tight. Frank would play it safe, going on to study accounting at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. While there, friends set him up on a blind date with Gloria Cuzzocrea, another child of the Bronx with southern Italian roots but from the Belmont neighborhood. A protracted and bumpy courtship led ultimately to marriage, but not before Frank completed three years in the U.S. Navy aboard the salvage ship U.S.S. Deliver which took him from Hawaii to the Arctic Circle and to ports in postwar Korea and Japan.
Back on dry land, Frank and Gloria raised their three children in Pelham Manor, NY, where they lived for more than 30 years. They retired to Florida in 1992 and spent summers in Green Hill, RI. Frank died at 72 from pancreatic cancer in 2004.
Frank’s career in commercial finance began in 1957 with Meinhard-Commercial Corporation. He subsequently worked for Iselin Jefferson Financial Company and Manufacturers Hanover Commercial Corporation where he rose to chairman and CEO in 1984. Shortly thereafter, he was elected to lead the merger of MHCC with CIT’s various factoring units and ultimately became chairman and CEO of the combined entity, CIT Group/Factoring, the largest factor in the world. He held several offices of the National Commercial Finance Association and in 1990 became chairman of its board. He later served on the Board of Directors of Ames Department Stores and on a special advisory board for FleetBank Investment Services in Sarasota FL.
Late in his career, Frank fondly recalled his early days as an account executive working directly with clients, mostly textile manufacturers in New England and, later, in the South. After he had climbed the corporate ladder, when his children asked him exactly what he did as a senior executive, he explained that he mostly counted the paper clips in his desk drawer.
While living in Pelham, Frank coached youth basketball for the town recreation league for nine seasons. In 1985 he won the Human Service Award from the American Jewish Committee and in 1989 received the Distinguished Community Service Award from Brandeis University. He enjoyed golf (“I shoot in the 80s; if it gets any hotter I stay inside.”) and a good cigar. He was an avid reader of American history. A moderate Republican for most of his life, he disaffiliated for several years after the Watergate scandal. With rare exceptions, Frank came home for dinner every night and rarely missed his children’s sports games and piano recitals. He and Gloria were devoted to each other and made an elegant couple. Always mindful of how fleeting life can be, he took an early retirement that allowed the two of them to travel extensively and spend time with their children and grandchildren.