Some success stories are about determination and drive -- this one's about determination and driving. Indeed, Lewis Bakes' race to the top has encompassed quite a bit of both, as his resume includes everything from the launch of a multi-million dollar telecommunications company to Rookie of the Year honors as a Ferrari race car driver.
B Y N I C K N O T O ' 0 1
Many say that Lewis Bakes '80 has been living the "American Dream," and Bakes says he owes it all to Muhlenberg College.
Bakes fell in love with Muhlenberg the very first time he set foot on campus, as part of a football recruiting visit. From that day, Bakes says he knew he would be a Muhlenberg grad.
For starters, as a freshman, Bakes encountered his first true failure. During his first semester, Bakes was taking calculus with the hopes of pursuing a career in actuarial science. Those hopes were soon diminished when, after studying for 20 or more hours that week, he received a 28 on his first exam. Bakes quickly came to the conclusion that Muhlenberg was going to be his first true academic challenge, unlike high school, where he easily excelled.
Looking back, Bakes credits Muhlenberg's vigorous and challenging curriculum with his future academic successes, which included earning a degree from University of Bridgeport Law School in 1983, and a year later a master's in taxation from Boston University.
After taking an array of Muhlenberg courses, Bakes gleaned his first insight into his future while enrolled in a history course taught by Dr. Ed Baldrige. Bakes says that he enjoyed the way Baldrige conveyed the subject matter as a reporter of newsworthy events so much that he ultimately decided to major in history. This, in turn, he says, led him to law school.
While playing football, Bakes met his first non-family mentor, former Muhlenberg College football coach Frank Marino. Bakes respected Marino's charisma on and off the field as well as his caring attitude toward his players. Today, Coach Marino can still recognize Bakes' voice over the telephone without an introduction.
Next, Bakes encountered his first true love at Muhlenberg, and to this day they have never been apart. Happily married for more than 19 years, Bakes and Sandra Rell (Class of 1981) have two children, twins Samantha and Dean.
Finally, at the end of Bakes' Muhlenberg College career he encountered his first true success: Graduation, followed by his admission to law school.
Building a Technology
A decade later, ITDS had grown into the world's second largest provider of billing and customer care services to the wireless telecommunications industry. And, when Bakes sold the company in late 1999 it boasted 980 employees and annual revenue of approximately $150 million.
This return to Muhlenberg also marked the first time that Bakes met Muhlenberg President Arthur R. Taylor, and he says the immediate connection he felt with Taylor and his wife Kathryn helped to rekindle the love he felt for Muhlenberg during his first campus visit as a prospective freshman.
According to Bakes, the Taylors, who he says are a "precious gift delivered to Muhlenberg by a guardian angel," are the reason that he joined the Muhlenberg Board of Trustees and became much more involved in the support of its endowment. Since then, Bakes and his family also have established a scholarship and have joined the Henry Melchior Muhlenberg Society.
In addition, Bakes' generosity is further evidenced by the fact that the philosophy department offices are now named in honor of his parents, Charles and Portia Bakes.
Bakes' career behind the wheel began when he was four years old and he drove his uncle's brand new 1961 convertible through a set of garage doors--and he has been hooked on automobiles ever since.
After selling ITDS in December 1999, Bakes signed up for the 2000 Ferrari Challenge Race Series. There are approximately 50 identical Ferrari F-360 Modena race cars that compete during the season. The Challenge ran seven domestic races and a "final" for drivers from around the world in Italy. During 2000, the Challenge was the pre-race for both the Montreal and Indianapolis Formula 1 races, where Bakes and many others raced in front of crowds that reached 150,000. In 2000, Bakes was awarded the Rookie of the Year honors and holds the track record at Indianapolis for the fastest race lap recorded by a Challenge car.
In this same year, not only did Bakes continue racing Ferraris, but he became a businessman again, combining his passion for racing and automobiles into Xcede Motorsports, LLC. Among other things, Xcede purchases and sells racing and exotic cars. The Xcede showroom, located in New Canaan, Conn., currently houses a 2001 Lamborghini Diablo, a 2000 Ferrari F-550 Maranello, a 2000 Ferrari Modena, a 1999 Ferrari Modena Challenge Car, a 2000 BMW Z-8, a 2001 Mercedes S-55, a 1998 Porcshe Super Cup Race Car, and a 1999 Titan Motorcycle.
Bakes mentions that Xcede offers discounts to current Muhlenberg students and alumni!