Mark Hanson (History, 1985) Girton was, Mark thinks, as he looks back, the best choice of College that he could have made. Before Cambridge, he had a rather unconventional background. He went to Bedales School, known for its liberal ethos, and had spent time living abroad in the Middle East, Iran and India. ‘So I did not fit into any conventional social or experiential box,’ he reflects. ‘Girton was mixed, relaxed, a little out of the centre, a bit more independent and just gave me a gentler and more enjoyable warm-up into Cambridge life. I think it gave me a little more distance from any Cambridge bubble.’ Mark now works in Singapore as the Managing Director in Asia for business consultancy Hakluyt & Company. He supports the College as a member of the Campaign Board. ‘I know that I owe a lot of any success I have had to Girton and to Cambridge,’ he says. As a businessman and entrepreneur, he has been part of a small team of partners that has significantly grown Hakluyt over the last 15 years, from a turnover of £2
18 Girton Newsletter
million each year, to £50 million. Before that, he had a successful career in the army and the diplomatic service, punctuated by study for an MBA at French business school INSEAD.
deserved your place in the conversation, then she engaged, encouraged, cajoled and opened a small window onto her research, thinking and scholarship. It made me study rigorously.’
Alongside work, he has kept up a keen interest in sport. On the Sunday before his interview for this article, he had completed what he described as ‘a seven-hour triathlon.’ As a non-executive director, he has played his part in guiding amateur sport at the highest level, most recently sitting on the board of UK Sport as Deputy Chairman for three years, taking up the role in 2011, in the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympics.
The other big influence on him at University was the University Modern Pentathlon Club. Fellow Girtonian, Peter Cameron (1984), now a brigadier in the Royal Marines, and a lifelong friend, introduced Mark to the club. Mark won a Blue in his third year and followed in Peter’s footsteps as Cambridge captain. ‘The College was really clear: Go for it and as long as your studies do not suffer, you have got our backing.’
This pattern of focusing on work at the same time as sport took shape at Girton, where his History studies and modern pentathlon commitments fought for attention. ‘I was a pentathlete at Cambridge and I loved that,’ says Mark, ‘but there was always the risk that I preferred to go for a run or swim than study.’ He was cured of any definite preference after being sent by his Girton tutor, Miri Rubin, for a few sessions with Medieval Historian and England rugby player, Mark Bailey (now High Master of St Paul’s School, London). ‘That was pretty daunting, but she was telling me that if someone like Mark could combine scholarship and sport at that level, I ought to be able to manage at mine.’
His passion for sport made him determined not to take a milk round job after College; he looked for more of an adventure, rather than anything that the 1980s graduates deemed a conventional career. ‘The pentathlon experience and rigour of training, competition and physicality confirmed that I liked the outdoors, leadership and physical challenge more than a desk indoors,’ he says. Instead of a job in the city, he chose a career in the army and joined the Life Guards, where he became a captain and served in the war in Iraq. In the 1990s he moved from military service into the diplomatic service for a number of years.
Miri Rubin, now Professor of Medieval History at Queen Mary University of London, was a strong influence. ‘I loved studying History, but Miri really lit the fire,’ he remembers. ‘She was fierce and fun in equal measure. If you did not prepare, your tutorial would be a miserable affair. But if you did, and you
Mark firmly believes that the study of History has informed his approach to work and underpins the way that he thinks. ‘For me it has always been about the study of people, about putting yourself in their shoes to understand why they make decisions, giving yourself the understanding and context to put yourself in the place of Richard III, or the bloke running the King’s household, or