CI alum and CMCer, Dan Pawson, is currently on Jeopardy's Tournament of Champions. Right now, he's about to enter the semi-finals. He's also the fourth-most-winning champion ever and one of the youngest.
Here's my CI interview with him last year.
Daniel Pawson CMC '03 is your typical Claremont McKenna graduate.
He graduated as a Politics, Philosophy and Economics major, went on to U.Chicago Law, and now works as Republican state senator Bruce Tarr (Gloucester, MA)'s legislative director. He's only 26.
But if that weren't amazing enough, Pawson just surpassed the fourth-highest total inJeopardy!'s history, $149, 200, and he's still going strong. Did I mention that his wife, Andrea Saenz, Harvard Law '08, is 38-weeks pregnant and expecting this very week? Daniel sure has a lot on his plate.
He can't talk about how much he's made or how long he's going to be on the show, but he can talk about Claremont McKenna, life in the Bay State, and prospective fatherhood.
At Claremont McKenna College, Dan was active on the debate team and the Claremont Independent. The local Boston press has been eating up his story. Although he modestly tells me that another Claremont McKenna alum, Richard Johnson CMC '01 won a game a few months ago.
Charles Johnson (CJ): So which is harder? Preparing for Jeopardy! or the knowledge that you'll soon be a dad?
Daniel Powan (DP): Definitely the dad. It took very little preparation to get ready for Jeopardy. Reading history, politics, Shakespeare, all that stuff is all fun. I can't help but sense an impending feeling of doom I get when I'm about to spawn.
CJ: I found out about your victories from your wife, Andrea's blog, Peanut Butter Burrito, where she recounts his glorious victories. So you defeated Sage Hen professor, Justin Crowe, what was that like? Your wife says that Trebeck went and hexed you before it even began!
DP: We got along right way. We apparently knew a lot of the same people. Yeah Trebeck compared me to Ken Jennings. When he does that, people usually don't win.
CJ: You majored in P. P. E. Do you think the General Education requirements prepared you for Jeopardy!?
DP: There are definitely books that I have read that I definitely wouldn't have read had it not been for my major and the G.E.s I answered a question about Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther, and that's Lit 10. Andrea was very shocked that I knew it, but I guess that's the value of a CMC education - classic literature and classic thought that you wouldn't otherwise get.
CJ: My girlfriend and I tried out for Jeopardy! She passed the initial round and will hear back in March for the college competition. She wants to know how you practiced and prepared for the show. I read that playing video games apparently
DP: All the world capitals. Shakespeare. In nine shows, Shakespeare twice. Vice Presidents, Presidents, Opera-that was fun, First Ladies, two categories on Guns. I wouldn't have expected that.
CJ: Did you use J-Archive to prepare?
DP: I used J-Archive to get a sense of the difficulty. But I just studied the topics and like with world capitals, I made a bunch of flash cards.
CJ: You describe yourself as Last Moderate Republican and work for one of the last Republicans in the Bay State, Bruce Tarr from Gloucester, MA. That's also the name of the blog where you used to write. I'm also a moderate Republican from the Bay State any chance you'll some of your winnings to take back the party for Barry Goldwater? I'm guessing you want this income tax elimination to pass beforehand.
DP: (Laughs) I'd love take it back for Goldwater, although Massachusetts may be a lost cause. I assume you're referring to the new ballot initiative. We had another one of those where we voted to roll it back to 5 percent sales tax. We haven't gotten back to it yet. We seem to be doing a pretty good job at ignoring the will of the electorate. And that's got to change.
CJ: So what will you use the winnings for? And don't make Ken Jennings mistake of saying DVDs. (His wife apparently got angry.)
DP: Ken's statement was the three Ts: taxes, tithing, and a plasma TV. We bought a new car and we got a baby on the way. The old car was a 95 Mazda. The words "death trap" were probably appropriate for describing it. I still owe about 100,000 dollars in law school debt. We've also set up a down payment fund for a house. And, we're got a 3 or 4 thousand dollar trip to Vegas planned.
CJ: Any good CMC memories?
DP: I really liked my major. The classroom environment was a lot of fun and exciting. People were smart at CMC. People were just nerdy enough so you could have discussions about national or world interest and you never really conscious of it. It was appropriate. You'd sit around with a drink and talk about things without seeming like such a geek.
CJ: Well, I've got a lot of respect for you saying that you're a Yankees fan in the Boston press, but what's it been like dealing with the all the attention?
DP: Well, as you mentioned I work for Senator Tarr. Normally he's the one getting all the attention. Last week or so, camera came into the office. He's starting to resent it a little, but he's taking it in stride.
It may be starting to interrupt work. We're working on this huge energy bill and whenever I call someone to try and get something done it starts a two minute or so conversation. I certainly don't regret it at all. If I have to choose between dealing with the hassle or having the money, it's an easy choice.
CJ: Ah, a true CMCer.