Domer Diaries

My Domer Diary:

Winning for Others

Editor’s Note: This week’s Domer Diaries comes from Christopher Ban ’06 and Taylor Clagett ’08, each of whom are recent Jeopardy champions. Coincidentally, Ban and Clagett each decided to donate their Jeopardy earnings towards honoring loved ones who had passed away from brain cancer.

Name: Christopher Ban | Taylor Clagett
Class: 2006 | 2008
Dorm: O’Neill Family Hall | Keenan Hall
Major: Architecture, McGlynn Honors Program | Finance with minor in anthropology
Activities: Blues and Jazz piano with Don Savoie, Rowing team | Varsity Lacrosse
Clubs/affiliations: Notre Dame Club of Pittsburgh, Sorin Society | Notre Dame Club of Dallas

What was it like to be on Jeopardy? And win?

Chris: I guess I never really expected to be on Jeopardy in the first place.

My wife and I lived in the Lawrenceville area of Pittsburgh and used to walk down the street to get dinner several nights a week after work. In 2022, she got pregnant and we couldn’t really take that long walk down and back up the hill anymore, so we started to stay in and watch Jeopardy instead. After a few weeks of me yelling out the answers, she asked, “Why don’t you just try out?” So, I made it through the tryouts and actually found myself on the show.

I lost my brother Michael to brain cancer in May 2022, and I got to honor him on T.V. during the interview portion of the show by talking about him and the boathouse we’re trying to build and name after him at my high school. We used to watch a cartoon about Rikki Tikki Tavi from The Jungle Book when we were growing up, and when he was diagnosed with brain cancer, he sort of took on the mongoose as his personal icon. My final Jeopardy clue that clinched the game for me was about The Jungle Book. The answer was “Who is Rudyard Kipling?,” so it was more than just winning the game — it was two brothers teaming up again for the win. I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. When Mayim Bialik said Michael’s name on national T.V. in the next episode, it was an absolute all time peak moment in my life. I was interviewed for the local T.V. and radio stations.

I’m an oral surgeon (not an architect, as it turned out!) and it’s been almost seven months since it aired, but at least one patient a day still asks me about it.

Taylor: It was a pretty surreal experience. I used to watch Jeopardy with my family growing up on one of the six channels we got at the time, so it was somewhat of a tradition to watch after dinner. To be on that stage and to win a few games has been incredible. There have been so many brilliant Jeopardy champs and I certainly don't presume to tell you I’m in their league, but I'm grateful to be in their company.

Taylor, can you tell us more about your late niece, Taylor Anne?

My sister raised Taylor Anne by herself from basically newborn to about four years old when she met her current husband. Taylor was the most ebullient, kind, and faith-filled person I've ever met. She was always happy and cared so much for other people and animals. She truly was light personified. She was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme when she was six years old. This is an extremely rare, extremely aggressive form of brain cancer with a negligible survival rate and survival length of ~6 months. Taylor fought for over a year before going to be with the Lord. Of all federal funding for cancer research, ~5% goes to pediatric cancers — and that's all types of cancer. So the funding for pediatric brain cancer is less than 1%; this seems insane to me and my sister felt the same way so she started the Taylor Anne Foundation to raise awareness and funds for pediatric brain cancer. We’ve already raised over $75K and donated $50K to doctors and research that have shown promise in the field. No one should ever have to go through what Taylor Anne and my sister went through and that's one of the goals of the foundation.

Chris, what are some of your favorite memories with your late brother, Michael?

I have so many memories over his 36 years. We got him into the student section my sophomore year for a Notre Dame football game while he was still a high school student. He absolutely loved that.

We were both on the rowing team together. When I was a senior in high school and he was a freshman, our coach put a lineup together with him as the pace-setting seat and me rowing right behind him. He obviously loved being able to set the pace for his big brother and right before the race started, at the last possible second before the gun went off, he looked at me just over shoulder and said “just try to keep up” and the starting gun went off. He had a lot of swagger and confidence even then.

I also lived in DC before dental school when he was an undergrad at Georgetown and I played in his band. I donated all of my winnings from Jeopardy to our high school rowing association. They are making plans for a new boathouse and they’ve decided to name it after my brother, the Michael McNaughton Ban Memorial Boathouse. They are still in the process of acquiring the site on the Ohio River, but the plans are drawn up. The team has already named a boat after him in Sept. 2022 a few months after he passed. My parents and I also started a memorial fund in his name. It’s dedicated to help the rowing team, our high school Latin club, and string orchestra that we both played in. A lot of friends and family have donated and so have a few of the other Jeopardy contestants that I met this year. We are donating a double bass instrument to the string Orchestra for the first time, and hope to donate more in his name as the years go on.

As Notre Dame grads, are there lessons or learnings from your time as students that have contributed to your lives since graduation?

Chris: Oh definitely, and I’m still trying to live up to them every day. One is the importance of other people in your life, honoring them and the relationships you build as life goes on. I made most of the greatest friends that I have in my life at Notre Dame. Another is the importance and centrality of faith in my life. I can’t say I really had that, especially on an intellectual level before I went to Notre Dame. I learned that life’s real work is in trying to be a good and decent, well-rounded person and that work isn’t ever fully done.

Taylor: I met my wife at Notre Dame (Katie Boone ’09), my son’s godfather lived two doors down from me freshman year (Colin Roach ’08), and I’m still very close to a lot of my classmates. I think the work ethic, time management, and empathy that I further developed at Notre Dame has continued with me today. At Notre Dame, I really began to appreciate that you never know where someone is in their journey and it’s important to treat people accordingly.