Westlawn Institute was SOLD

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by cneville, Jan 4, 2015.

  1. cneville
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    cneville Designer / Small Craft NA

    Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology changed owners 01/01/15. I cannot say sold except maybe in the legal sense because I don't think any significant money actually changed hands. In any event it does have new owners.

    The change was not without challenge. I know this because I was one of those challenging the outcome. To be specific I was a member of the Board of Directors of Westlawn and had been for about 8 years. I was informed several days before Christmas that three individuals had made a bid to take over Westlawn. To the best of my knowledge little or no money was offered by them for that acquisition. What they offered was to absolve it's current owners ABYC of any and all obligations related to the school.

    ABYC's inclination was clear from the outset. Their goal was to get rid of Westlawn and the cost and obligations that it dictated. That included a relatively modest annual shortfall (in the scope of businesses) , but one still over 100 thousand dollars. If they had kept it there was also presumably a responsibility to pay-out current students at the cost of maybe 150 thousand dollars or more. The decision was made that Westlawn must go and that was clearly their prerogative.

    The new potential owners who had surfaced after the Professional Boatbuilder article by Dan Spurr had an aggressive timeframe. They wanted to close the deal before the end of the year. That was less than two weeks away and over a holiday period where many of those responsible might have limited availablility. But the push was on to make the deal go through. Unfortunately the board of directors of Westlawn, again of which I was a member, needed to approve the deal. Actually as structured the new owners chose to avoid that step by asking existing board members not to approve the deal, but to simply step down with signature on an authorization of unanimous consent.

    Over the Christmas and New Years holiday several of the board members of Westlawn felt that it was either not in the best interest of the school itself or not in the best interest of the 100+ current students of the school to sign that authorization. I'll save you the minutia of the week of back and forth between ABYC and the various board members trying to coax them along. The bottom line is that on New Years Eve ABYC revealed that they could (according to the applicable bylaws) fire four of the board members. That left three remaining: One the ABYC president, one who was early on been sympathetic to ABYC's desire to unload Westlawn, and one who was the current (former) director of Westlawn. They voted and by a two to one margin Westlawn was "sold" to the new entity. By their own outline that transfer resulted in the firing of the director and others responsible for the schools day to day operations.

    So what does that mean. Westlawn's history is well documented. The plans of the three new owners are at best vague. They have expressed little more than a plan to "bring Westlawn into the 21st century" with adaptations in systems and technology. I don't know exactly what that means. If it had been clear I might have voted for their approval. I do know that several of us who felt an obligation to the school saw little evidence of their practical experience needed to pull that off.

    I would like to think Westlawn will have a long and robust future. It would be ashamed if it does not reach it's 100'th anniversary. While I'm saddened to no longer be associated with her, that does not change my affection nor my hope for her future. I wish the best for Westlawn as she moves forward.

    Unfortunately I think the way the change was undertaken does not speak well for how the school will be handled in the future. I also think that the way everyone was handled in the process was at best classless. As for new or potential students I could only suggest that you sit still and wait to see how things sort out.

    But then that's just my opinion.

    Chuck Neville
    Yacht Designer
    former Westlawn BOD member.
  2. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    What was this article about?

    Is Westlawn a non-profit organization?
  3. Landlubber
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    Landlubber Senior Member

    Thanks for that insight Chuck, all the best.
  4. FMS
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    FMS Senior Member

  5. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

  6. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    Previous thread about Westlawn and the ABYC: http://www.boatdesign.net/forums/education/westlawns-future-51874.html The most recent post on that thread is:
    David Smyth of El Segundo, California (presumably the same David Smyth who posts here as u4ea32) on his LinkedIn page says:
  7. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology has been a non-profit organization, and has had 501 (c) (3) status from the IRS. As a non-profit organization it would not have had "owners" in the usual sense. Rather it would have been controlled by a board of directors. It appears that ABYC had ultimate control through the ability to control a majority of the board positions.
  8. rasorinc
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    rasorinc Senior Member

    I just want to wish the new controllers well and the best of luck. We need Westlawn to continue to provide their services.
  9. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Let us hope that Westlawn is in good hands. The OPs description of the "goings on" does not sound like a straight up deal. We'll see.

    Buried somewhere in my file cabinet is an almost 50 year old certificate of completion from Westlawn. I place no real value on the certificate but I do place some value on the things that I learned at the time.
  10. Skyak
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    Skyak Senior Member

    With respect for those who have taken Westlawn so far, this is the best thing that could happen to a nonprofit dedicated to nautical design education. EdX is a great resource. I am amazed by the quality of the classes available. I think it is just a matter of time until it develops respect among employers. The transition may be difficult for faculty -new skills, far more students of wider ability at lower prices -but for personal and professional growth it is a great opportunity. For my own purposes this is a great development. For some time I have been interested in Westlawn but I always find peripheral studies available on EdX (composites, aerodynamics) better suit my needs.
  11. Leo Lazauskas
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    Leo Lazauskas Senior Member

    Some of the online courses are brilliant, but employers should be very
    wary of results that people claim as their own. Cheating in many Indian
    universities is very worrying, and damaging the whole sector's
    credibility. The potential for cheating in online courses is much
    Employers need to have some independent tests to make sure that
    prospective employees have requisite knowledge.
  12. Richard Woods
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    Richard Woods Woods Designs

    Agreed, when my niece did her Masters online at a UK university (she was living in Canada) she had to fly to the UK for a viva

  13. Ad Hoc
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    Ad Hoc Naval Architect

    One assumes she also had to meet a prerequisite academic standard too..i.e O-levels, or A-levels or a previous undergraduate degree to be accepted for her Masters?

    That is what is the beauty of these on line courses, no previous knowledge/experience is necessary - anyone can learn educate themselves. But it is also their bete noire no screening.
  14. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    As an alumnus and a long time member of ABYC I have mixed feelings about this. I had known the previous head of Westlawn, Norm Nudelman, since the 70' when the sponsor was NAEBM. and when I took the course. I thought it was a great change when NMMA became the sponsor and I was very happy to see ABYC procure Westlawn. Having known Dave Gerr for many years I knew he would make a great director.

    I think the industry needs an organization like Westlawn. In the boat building industry Westlawn is well respected and well represented. Many well known names in the industry have taken courses from Westlawn.

    I hope this change will not result in the demise of Westlawn. Certainly any education organization can find ways to improve the delivery of their product. But, this is not a big profit making business. New technology and upgrading of courses costs money, lots of money. I hope the new owners are going to give it the cash influx to do what they are saying they want to do. It would be a shame if this was the beginning of the end, rather than the beginning.

  15. daiquiri
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    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    Seeing the names mentioned so far in the official announcements, I have a feeling that the courses will become much more engineering-based. Which would not be a bad thing, IMO.
    Dr. Tangorra is known for his research in the field of robotic fish and biomimetics (http://mem.drexel.edu/LBSA/), which might reveal something about the future heading of the school. We have been witnessing some important developments in the boat design lately, and departures from the traditional way of designing them. Talking about foiling, hybrid propulsion, advanced composites, FEM-based structural design, increased use of electro-hydraulic systems, personal underwater vessels, AUVs etc. All of these require a higher emphasis on engineering studies, so my feeling is that the new Westlawn will be headed to that direction. We shall see.
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