PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The daughter of an Oregon politician and a Catlin Gabel School and Harvard grad, Mira Hayward has always been surrounded by intelligent people.
Well, as she showed on national television, she has a few smarts as well, thanks to a lot of reading and curiosity and time that she calls “going down the Wikipedia rabbit” hole and into “a research spiral.”
On Thursday, Feb. 9, the 27-year-old Hayward won a game on “Jeopardy!,” pocketing $14,600. She tries for her second win Friday night, 7 p.m. on KATU-TV (Channel 2).
“It was such a fun experience. Winning was the cherry on top,” she said. “The other contestants were very good and very friendly. It was fun to hang out with them in the green room.”
It turns out the defending champ was a fellow named Dan Wohl, who, the previous night — Wednesday, Feb. 8 — had defeated four-time champ Matthew Marcus of Portland.
“He’s a great guy, and we’ve become friends,” Hayward said.
Hayward is the daughter of Oregon state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, D-Portland, and a 2013 Catlin Gabel graduate. She received a history degree from Harvard University, and then worked for some nonprofits in Chicago before returning to her hometown to live in 2020.
She currently writes for a history podcast, “Noble Blood,” which delves into “strange stories.”
Hayward and her family have watched “Jeopardy!” But mostly, she credits her emphasis on academics and reading, as well as a “very curious” nature, for her trivia knowledge.
When she worked in Chicago, a literacy nonprofit allowed her to receive five free books per month as a perk of the job there. She read them all.
Another source for Hayward’s knowledge has been the New York Times’ “Guide to Essential Knowledge: A Desk Reference for the Curious Mind.” And, of course, lots of time on the Internet, including on Wikipedia.
Hayward got the call to be on “Jeopardy!” two weeks before her appearance.
“It was cramming as much as I could, and practice games with siblings and my boyfriend,” she said.
Her mother was elected to public office during Hayward’s junior year at Catlin Gabel. Then Hayward went to Harvard and lived in Chicago. So, she hasn’t been around for much of Steiner’s tenure as a state senator.
“I’m proud of the work she’s done,” Hayward said. “She’s a (family practice) doctor originally, and done a lot of public health work.
“It’s exciting to see work she does. I worked in her office a little bit doing constituent services. … No politics for me, I studied history.”
Her mother had a watch party in Salem attended by about 30 people. Hayward and her boyfriend, big soccer fans of English Premier League’s Arsenal, held a watch party for about 40 people at Beaulahland on Northeast 28th Street, the Arsenal fans’ bar.
Hayward doesn’t know how she’ll use her “Jeopardy!” winnings, yet.
She’s happy to be back in Portland, though, living and working.
Going to Harvard “made me realize I’m a West Coast girl at heart,” Hayward said.
She added, “I loved Chicago, but the winters are tricky. Great food, beautiful city, good public transportation. I had a lot of fun there. During COVID, everything shut down, and I realized it would be nice to be back with family. It was hard when I came back to Portland, but here, you’ve got one of the most beautiful cities in world, and I can go hiking every day.”