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WHOI Receives $1 Million Gift to Encourage Innovation in Technology

November 17, 2006

A longtime Osterville resident who loved the oceans and supported the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for more than four decades before he died in 2005 has left a $1 million gift to the Institution.

The funds will be used for years to come as a named commitment honoring Townsend Hornor in the Institution’s Access to the Sea Fund, which encourages innovation through partnerships in science and engineering and the integration of new technologies into WHOI’s global seagoing capabilities.

Townsend “Townie” Hornor died at his home in Osterville of cancer in September 2005 at age 78. Born in New York City in 1927, he moved to Cape Cod with his family in the early 1930s when his father helped establish the Chester Crosby & Sons boatyard in Osterville, and lived in the family home much of his life. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserves during World War II and graduated from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree in colonial and maritime history in 1954.

Townie worked in corporate finance for many years in Boston and New York, living in Chestnut Hill, MA, or Greenwich, CT, and spending as much time as possible at his home in Osterville until residing there full-time in the 1970s.  After his retirement from corporate finance, he worked as a private business consultant and president of West Bay Marine Corporation, a small boat service business in Osterville devoted to maintaining wooden sailboats and small craft.

“As a Trustee and Member of the Corporation for many years, Townie Hornor provided his wisdom and guidance on numerous committees. He was also a member for more than forty years and former president of the WHOI Associates program,” Acting WHOI President and Director James Luyten said. “He loved meeting people and learning firsthand what the researchers were doing in the labs or out at sea.  He was passionate about the oceans, and clearly understood the commitment of our staff to understand how the oceans work and to remain at the forefront of new technologies for exploring the world’s oceans.”

An avid sailor, Hornor sailed his 21-foot catboat Frances for 35 years, eventually donating it to the Osterville Historical Society, where it is on display. He served as Commodore of the Wianno Yacht Club and was a member of several clubs, including the New York Yacht Club.

“This generous gift in Townsend Hornor’s name to the Access to the Sea Fund will help keep his passion for the oceans alive and honor his legacy,” said Robert Detrick, WHOI Vice President for Marine Facilities and Operations.  “It will enable us to take advantage of technological advances in such areas as miniaturized chemical and biological sensors, high definition digital imagery, autonomous vehicles, and continuous monitoring of the oceans through the establishment of ocean observatories.”

WHOI is a private, independent marine research and engineering, and higher education organization in Falmouth, Mass. Its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Institution is organized into five departments, interdisciplinary institutes and a marine policy center, and conducts a joint graduate education program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.