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The Loss of an Industry Legend and a Great Mentor

Remembering Crestron’s innovative CTO Fred Bargetzi.

A few years ago, I learned Fred Bargetzi was ill and would not be with us much longer. I felt so fortunate and honored to have an opportunity to go visit him at home last Friday, just five days before his passing. It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness that I write today, but I am also proud and humbled to have called Fred a friend and mentor.

Fred was the most kind and gentle person I ever met on both a personal and professional level. His passion for the dealer community shined through in every interaction I had with him. At InfoComm many years ago, I met Justin Scott, the head engineer for Crestron Studio at the time. He introduced me to Fred and I was surprised and honored when Fred said he wanted to come to my home for a meeting and to see what we had done with Studio. It was no secret how passionate I was about Crestron — not just the brand, but how they treat their dealers like family. Meeting Fred showed me how passionately Crestron cares about the dealer experience — Fred epitomized that ethos.

The first time he came to my home, he brought the Crestron Studio engineering team with him. This was well before Studio was widely released. He spent hours with me talking about my business, my programming, my family, my home, and how Crestron fit into our business and how they could do more for us. It was a very humbling experience. I feel so fortunate to have been noticed by Fred and his team. There are dozens if not hundreds of dealers who are likely more deserving of the attention and the access I have had with the Crestron team, but, with Fred’s friendship, my knowledge, experience, and abilities have been taken to the next level. I will miss Fred’s friendship and mentorship.

Related: Industry Role Models

On Friday, when I went to visit Fred, he said something to me that will stick with me the rest of my life — there’re innovators, trendsetters, and order takers. Fred was an innovator — just like Steve Jobs, he thought of things no one else thought of or thought would work. He said (and I am not directly quoting here) that dealers don’t always know what they want or need, and it was his job to create products to fill those unknown needs. DM is one of those products people didn’t realize they needed or wanted, but look at what it did for the video switching industry. Everything was component video at the time and dealers didn’t see the value of going to HDMI and digital. Fred had the vision to see the analog sunset before there was even a name for it.

He pioneered HDMI switching with the DM line. While it was originally designed for the residential marketplace, DM has taken hold in commercial as well, and is now a more than $700MM business. That is innovation at its essence.  He was also a pioneer in IP control of smart home devices. Back then it was called e-control. Crestron was very early in implementing Ethernet ports on hardware and controlling over the network. This was well before the average dealer was even touching the network. This was when many homes were still using dial-up. I will miss Fred’s brilliant mind.

Fred brought me into the Beta and Alpha programs with Crestron. I originally started beta testing the DM products and I was so proud when Fred praised my feedback. I would later be brought on to beta test Crestron PYNG, which eventually morphed into Crestron Home. It is through these Alpha and Beta testing programs that I got to know Fred and the rest of the engineering team so well. It is where I really and truly experienced his passion and compassion for dealers. He always wanted to make sure we were taken care of and that our needs were being met by everything Crestron pursued.

Fred has always been like this. In putting this piece together, I called John Clancy (also one of my mentors) and he told me the same thing. John met Fred back in the mid 1990s and at that time Fred mentored John in the industry, much as he and John have been mentors to me in my 10-year history with Crestron. John said something that blew me away — in the mid 1990s Fred was laser focused on the dealer community, getting input from them and putting the dealer first. That is exactly how I feel Crestron operates today.

Fred was such a genuine and honest person that his core values have not changed in the interceding 25 years. With Fred’s seniority and legendary status at Crestron, I would have assumed he would have been aloof and unreachable, but he was just like me — passionate about the tech and Crestron. He loved his family, his cars, Crestron, and his dealers. I will miss his passion.

I will, and already do, miss you Fred.