Marriott Abroad: Tyler & Sarah Westerberg

By P. Ann Chen

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Married 16 August 1997

In the beginning, the odds were not in their favor. It was the fall of 1996, and Sarah, a Brit and an Oxford graduate, had returned to the university to work in the admissions office. Tyler was a BYU undergraduate who had just arrived in England for a semester-long study abroad. “I had two strict rules to guide my dating habits—no Americans and no students,” Sarah says. “My older and younger sisters had married students from the United States within the previous year, but I was enjoying my job as a liaison officer, my disposable income, and my closet full of business suits. I had no intention of moving to the States!”

Westerbergs 3Her resolve, however, melted when she met Tyler at family home evening on campus. “All the Americans at Oxford looked the same to me—navy blazers, penny loafers, and perfect teeth,” Sarah recalls. “My friends and I used the word ‘shiny’ to describe them.” But Tyler, it turned out, radiated a special charm. “We began hanging out, then dating, and I made the trek all the way to Idaho that Christmas to meet his family,” Sarah says.

They married the following summer and settled in Provo, where Tyler resumed his studies and Sarah enrolled in the Marriott School’s Executive MPA program. By the time she graduated in 2001, Tyler had already decided he wanted an MBA but knew he needed work experience to strengthen his application. His parents had owned a Baskin-Robbins franchise in Idaho so when the Provo store went up for sale, he seized the day and bought it.

Then came a bolt out of the blue: Tyler was diagnosed with testicular cancer. After two surgeries he was fine, but the cancer returned a year later, this time requiring chemotherapy. “During the period he was fighting the disease, I was working full time at BYU’s tutoring program and running the franchise before and after work,” Sarah says. “The hands-on stuff I learned in the MPA program was incredibly helpful in managing a small business.” The pressure eased up when Tyler went into remission once again, just as he was accepted into the Executive MBA program in 2005.

These days the Westerbergs are proud of their his-and-hers graduate degrees. “We still compare notes about our experiences and strongly agree that the accounting and finance classes were the most painful,” Sarah jokes. After receiving a PhD in educational leadership from BYU, Sarah is now an associate dean of students at BYU. Tyler, who sold the Baskin-Robbins in 2010, is a stay-at-home dad to their four children—William, Toby, Edmund, and Cecily—while doing property management on the side. “I’m thankful for so many things,” he says, “and that includes being admitted to the Marriott School when I was finishing chemo, had no hair, and was looking for a new challenge in my life,” he says. “I’ve found it.”

Catch more Marriott love stories in “Joint Ventures,” in the Winter 2014 issue.

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About the Author

P. Ann Chen, a native of Los Angeles, California, is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in People, Allure, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others.