The Thrill of a Challenge

Daniel Lewis, MBA’76 (Flor), University trustee

(Photograph by Bill Cardoni)

By Tom Nugent

When the 762-pound blue marlin broke water, Daniel Lewis, MBA’76 (Flor), could hardly believe his eyes. On a sunny afternoon with a brisk breeze 16 years ago, the internationally renowned business consultant “sank the hook” deep into the jaws of one of the largest and most powerful game fish.

Perched on a deck chair aboard his 46-foot Bertram fishing yacht off the coast of western Mexico, Lewis watched in amazement as the monster-fish soared above the turquoise-hued waters.

Then, plummeting back in, it turned and fled. Zooming along at up to 60 miles an hour, it bolted for 600 yards, while the line went screaming off the reel. It took the determined fisherman and his crew more than an hour and a half to wrestle the giant marlin to his boat, the “Sporty Game,” and haul her onto the deck.

For Lewis, retired president of the world’s oldest international business consulting firm, Booz & Co., that battle speaks volumes about the passion he feels for challenges that “force you to reach within to find the strength” to ensure success.

“For me,” Lewis said, “sport fishing is all about confronting thrilling challenges.

“Catching a 762-pound marlin was certainly an unforgettable experience,” he added. “But these days I’ve got an even bigger boat [now 63 feet], and I’m working on my next goal … a 1,000-pounder!”

The boat’s name, the “Sporty Game,” echoes a phrase used to describe the high-risk investment required to develop new commercial aircraft. (Photo by Christopher Capuano)

Born and raised in Rockford, Ill., Lewis grew up in a family dependent on government assistance — providing him with an early look at what it means to struggle to get by each day.

An aspiring country singer, Lewis’ father spent much of his professional life on the road. “For most of my youth my father was not around,” Lewis recalls. “There were six of us kids, and we survived a lot of the time on welfare. But then my mother was diagnosed with a fatal heart condition, and when our family got split up as a result, my siblings were cared for by relatives. But I was fortunate because some wonderful neighbors — Gilbert and Beryl Lund — out of the goodness of their hearts, took me in and raised me from ages 7 through 18. I was very grateful for their kindness, and I decided early on that I would work hard to build a better world for myself, and my own family, when I grew up.”

Lewis kept that promise, in spades.

A bright and energetic kid, he was “fortunate to get into Purdue University” and emerged with degrees in both aviation technology and organizational leadership and supervision in 1972. He soon landed an entry-level management post at pharmaceutical giant Warner-Lambert.

After being transferred to the company’s corporate headquarters in the mid-1970s, Lewis realized that he wanted to complete an MBA degree. “FDU had an excellent MBA program, which also happened to be nearby and very convenient,” he says.

“I was very lucky to attend FDU, because one of my first teachers and mentors … taught the kinds of things I was especially interested in, including quantitative analysis and business and economic forecasting.” He adds that his enthusiasm for “understanding how supply-and-demand dynamics actually work over time” helped him later as a corporate consultant.

Armed with this knowledge, Lewis secured a position at Booz (then “Booz Allen Hamilton”) in the late 1970s. He soon realized the key to effective business consulting: “knowing how to sit back and really listen to your clients.”

Specializing in the airline-management and manufacturing industries, Lewis would spend 32 years at Booz — the last 11 of which took place in the corner office as president.

After retirement, Lewis decided that he wanted to give back to some of the institutions that had helped him achieve success. His business acumen, along with a strong desire to support medical advances, prompted a $1-million donation to FDU in 2014 to create the Daniel and Martina Lewis Center for Healthcare Innovation and Technology in the School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

An FDU Charter Day honoree and PINNACLE award winner, Lewis also contributes to FDU scholarships, with the goal of helping students find the resources they need for success.

“What I want is to help other people enjoy success — and to have the opportunity to fish as often as possible!”

Ed. note: A version of this article first appeared in the Summer/Fall 2016 edition of FDU Magazine.

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