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May 17, 2018

Former president who oversaw BIW’s record growth in 1970s dies at 93

Courtesy / Stetson’s Funeral Home
Courtesy / Stetson’s Funeral Home
John F. Sullivan Jr., who served as president of Bath Iron Works during the shipyard's period of rapid growth in the 1970s, died earlier this week at the age of 93.

Former Bath Iron Works president John F. Sullivan Jr., who retired from the shipyard in 1983, died at the age of 93 on May 13.

The Bangor Daily News reported that Sullivan oversaw record employment surges and the company's sale to Congoleum.

According to an obituary in The Times Record, Sullivan was also vice president of Congoleum during his time at BIW. Before joining BIW, he was executive vice president of Hayes Albion Corporation, president of E.F. Houghton Company, and earlier in his career spent 19 years with General Electric, serving in a number of management positions.

According to a June 1983 report of the Maritime Reporter, Sullivan's leadership over eight years helped establish BIW "as one of the nation's premier shipbuilders."

Upon Sullivan's retirement, Eddy G. Nicholson, president of Congoleum, assumed the additional role of chairman of BIW and BIW's Chief Operating Officer William E. Haggett took over as CEO.

Commending Sullivan for his leadership, Nicholson said at the time, "Under his guidance, Bath Iron Works has established itself as one of the nation's premier shipbuilders."

A company history credits Sullivan with implementing a modular construction system, which had been adopted from Japanese practice, at BIW for the first time. The shipbuilding technique, which is now the standard at major shipyards, involved building a hull out of modules constructed indoors and fitted there with electrical wiring, plumbing, ventilation, and hydraulic equipment.

During his tenure, work backlogs and employment were at record peacetime levels, and the company had "achieved an unequaled reputation for quality performance, ahead of schedule and under budgeted cost." BIW employment soared from 3,500 at the end of 1975 to more than 8,500 in 1982, and the shipyard's backlog rose from $125 million to over $1 billion, with the company's profitability increasing substantially.

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