In the 1960s, David Triesman was making rousing speeches to students about communism and the iniquities of chemical weapons. Today, his audiences are lecturers and his principal subject pay. But his speeches are no less stirring for that.
As general secretary of the Association of University Teachers for the past six years, he has shown himself an adept and articulate champion of academic concerns.
He was born in Hertfordshire in 1943. His academic career took him to the University of Essex, where he studied for an undergraduate degree in social science and an MA in philosophy. There he was associated with the Radical Student Alliance. He was one of two Essex students suspended for organising a protest against a visiting lecturer from the Chemical and Biological Defence Centre at Porton Down - an event that helped spark the university's student uprisings in 1968.
Triesman undertook postgraduate work at King's College, Cambridge, and, in 1970, became a research officer in drug addiction at the Institute of Psychiatry. Around this time, he became a long-serving member of the Communist Party.
After a year's secondment to the ASTMS union, now MSF, he joined the Polytechnic of South Bank, now South Bank University, as a senior lecturer in social studies and coordinator of postgraduate research.
After serving as chair of Burnham further education teachers' panel, he became in 1985 national negotiating secretary/deputy general secretary of lecturers' union Natfhe. In 1993, he succeeded Diana Warwick as AUT general secretary.
His friends call him "a star", "the best speaker of his generation" and praise his humour. His critics say he can be slippery.
A former semi-professional footballer who was once on Tottenham Hotspur's books, Triesman is a keen Spurs supporter and co-author of Football Mania. He recently tried his hand at the four-man bobsleigh.