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He has long and slender fingers that could belong to a master concert pianist. But Michael D. Lewis '93 uses his prized digits to work their magic on a different instrument--the typewriter.
The former Alabama state typing champion takes his sport to heart. Lewis, who now lives in Thayer, averaged 108 words per minute in the state finals at the end of his junior year in high school, less than 12 months after he enrolled in his first typing class.
"I saw somebody typing on a computer and said, 'That's something I should learn how to do,"' Lewis said, explaining how he got his start. "Typing is something like reading. It never hurts to know how to type."
At first, the prodigal Lewis did not realize the extent of his talent but his teacher's frequent compliments helped his fingers move a little faster.
"I don't think I typed better than anyone in my class for nearly all of the first year," Lewis said. "I guess I wanted attention, and I said to myself, 'If I do better, I'll get more attention.'"
A man truly at ease with words, Lewis also took the state spelling title during his senior year and believes that typing and spelling go hand in hand.
"A lot of people don't realize that typing is more than just speed," he said, adding that good spelling is an important skill for a champion typist.
Although Lewis said some people are "surprised that a guy is a typing champ," he remains very proud of his talent. He listed his extraordinary talent on his Harvard application, and does not shy away from mentioning it to people in conversation.
When he has free time on his hands, Lewis even helps out his roommates and friends by typing up papers. And he refuses to accept money for his work, saying "typing is something that I love to do."
"He has a lot of other stuff to do," said the Thayer resident's proctor Bamidele Fayemi. "But he's always willing to help other people out. That's what makes him really special."
Dan O'Neil, Lewis' roommate, remembers the first time he saw the champ's fingers fly across the keyboard.
"I saw him typing once, and he was pretty damned fast."
Entralled with his sport, Lewis said he sometimes types to relieve himself of boredom.
"Every job I've had after winning the state competition has involved typing,"said Lewis, who said he definitely plans toinclude typing in his career plans.
Lewis admitted that his speed has dropped fromhis blistering championship pace. But he stillworks out to keep his fingers in shape bycompeting in intramurals, practicing karate, andtyping everything from homework assignments toletters.
"I type all the time," he said. "I prefertyping to writing."
Lewis entered into the national "type-offs"championship after claiming the Alabama title in1988, but had a disappointing performance and didnot make the top ten.
"They really had awful typewriters," Lewissaid, with a laugh. "They had manual machines, andmy fingers aren't strong enough" to press the keysdown quickly.
Although Lewis may have wanted to come backfrom the nationals and repeat his statechampionship, Alabama typing amateurs were pleasedthat he would never compete again. Under theofficial regulations of the state tournament,former champions are forbidden from competing fora second time
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