Diabetes is No Barrier to Success for Graduating UT Senior

Published: Dec 15, 2009
 While type 1 diabetes is something Ethan Lewis has learned to deal with since he was 12, he hasn’t let it define who he is.

“It’s given me a great outlook on life and a sense of urgency. It keeps me working hard, on my toes and motivating me to do better,” he said.

Lewis, who is graduating Dec. 19 with a degree in advertising and public relations, has been working full-time as general manager of DuPont REGISTRY’s online division, HighlineEXCHANGE.com, while taking 18 credits this semester. After he walks across the stage on Saturday to get his diploma, he’ll be back to work Sunday, on one of the several start-ups he’s involved in.

“I love it,” said Lewis, 22, who has a countdown to graduation in his Channelside home office. “It’s exciting for me.”

Lewis was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 12 years old. The Connecticut native had to convince his mom that it was OK for him to be on his own, at a college on the other side of the country.

The warm weather, living on-campus with prepared meals and the stress of college life all come with additional challenges as a diabetic. Lewis said he takes it as a positive challenge. This past summer he was filmed by dLife, an online diabetes resource that airs video pieces on CNBC.

“I’ve been dealing with it for so long that I’m used to it,” Lewis said. “It’s something I can never overlook though, and that’s OK.”

Lewis started at duPont in 2008 as an intern. He helped re-launch the company’s Web site, HighlineEXCHANGE.com, which lets exotic car dealers buy, sell and trade high-end cars.

“The auto industry has really been hurt and this has been a tough time, but we’ve weathered the storm,” said Lewis. Since the October 2008 re-launch, membership has grown from 700 to 1,500 members. “I really enjoy seeing the site grow and mature.”

Launching new businesses isn’t something new for Lewis.

In the beginning of December, Lewis launched the Swaave Card, a discount card to local businesses for Tampa residents that earmarks a portion of its proceeds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Empowerment Fund, with his friend and fellow UT student Chris Sacchinelli.

While still in high school at age 16, Lewis opened his first business, Old Dock Crackers, which manufactured flavored soup crackers. In his application to UT, he included a box with three flavors of his crackers.

“My passion is creating businesses and opportunities for others,” Lewis said. “And I love to work. I started working at 12 and haven’t stopped since. I enjoy being productive.”

Lewis said the small, intimate campus at UT felt like home the minute he stepped on campus for a pre-college tour. During the last four years he said UT has helped give him a solid foundation of core values to stand on. And his advice for other students with diabetes?

“Don’t let it stop you,” Lewis said. “Only let it motivate you. Use it to your advantage to accomplish your goals and aspirations.”

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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