David Lewis

The only plan that the young David Lewis had for his life when he arrived at Lancaster University in 1972, was that he wanted to see the world and he needed to study a long way from home in Essex.

From his current perspective as chairman of Howe Robinson – one of the largest dry cargo and container ship broking houses in the the world, employing around 70 brokers in London – he has succeeded beyond his initial ambitions.

As well as spending time living in Japan in the early 1980s, he currently makes up to two visits there a year, as well as keeping a daily finger on the movement of freight ships carrying steel, oil and grain around Asia.

"It is a physical market," David explains. "The ships exist and we are the intermediaries in their employment and commercial management."

The freedom he experienced at Lancaster University to explore his chosen subject of politics with international relations, was very important to him, when he arrived at the newly-built campus. Unusually for the time, David had spent a gap year in India, studying politics at a college in Delhi, and he had already enjoyed a degree of independence.

He had been attracted to Lancaster's politics course and remembers both it, and the international relations course, as being exciting and well taught. Politics were more in evidence on the campus at the time and he remembers the department being closed by student sit-ins.

Since he had a motorcycle, David was able to make the most of exploring the Lake District, which he says was 'terrific'. He made many friends through the university and spent much of his three years there exploring the area in company or alone.

Having gained his degree, he opted for a career linked with ships - unsurprising as his father had been in the Navy - but David himself had no experience of boats himself. His first job was as a graduate trainee with P&O for two years. The lure of the Far East prompted his move to Jardine Matheson – the giant business conglomorate – which sent him to Japan for more than two years.

In the late 1980s he was involved in a management buyout, which resulted in his chairmanship of Howe Robinson at a time of intense activity on world markets, as a result of which his company has benefited. David talks refers to the business's success, in partnership with a colleague, as 'lucky', but it is also the result of shrewd management and a keen knowledge of the international business scene and markets.

He has not been back to Lancaster University, but has given money to fund the living expenses of undergraduates studying politics, because he regrets that studying is no longer free as it was for him.

"Lancaster was a very important time in my life," says David. "It seems to be good for everyone who goes there. I met lots of people from a variety of different backgrounds, I enjoyed the courses and I enjoyed the experience of being at university there."