At Florence gala, "Jeopardy!" champion says experience changed life

Posted: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 10:35 pm

BY MELISSA ROLLINS Morning News This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FLORENCE, S.C. -- Ben Ingram, a "Jeopardy" Tournament of Champions winner, talked with the audience at The School Foundation's annual gala Tuesday night about how Florence School District One helped him become the person he is today.

He was honored at the gala as The School Foundation's distinguished graduate.

"On 'Jeopardy,' even though it is a game that is played among three individuals, I for one was just a small part of a large team," Ingram said. "It wasn't a team formed for the express purpose of getting Ben Ingram on 'Jeopardy,' or getting someone from Florence on 'Jeopardy.' I think the purpose of this team was to get me ready for adulthood. I was very well prepared by this team."

Ingram said there are countless individuals he counts as part of this team.

"My team includes my folks, who were the first people to ever teach me," he said. "It includes (my girlfriend) Liz who knows everything I don't...but it also includes my fellow students in kindergarten, and my teachers there too; my teachers and students at Royall...Sneed...Williams and dear old Wilson High. They deserve the credit. I humbly accept this award on behalf of them; on behalf of my team."

Ingram shared a little bit with the audience about his time on "Jeopardy."

"When I was walking on the stage to play 'Jeopardy' for the first time...I did not have any expectations; I didn't expect to win, lose, draw or whatever," Ingram said. "I did have a lot of nerves so one thing I did to calm myself down was I made a promise to myself. That promise was that no matter what happened, no matter what the outcome of this experience would be, win, lose or draw, I would not allow it to change my life."

Ingram told the audience that all three possible outcomes eventually became a reality.

"Well, since then, I've done all three," Ingram said. "I've won on 'Jeopardy'; I've lost on 'Jeopardy' and as some of you may remember on July 3, 2013, I played to a draw...That promise I made to myself has long been void; this has changed my life and the most profound, the most valuable change, is that I've been able to make a lot of new friends. I've been able to renew acquaintances with my old friends and become closer to them and closer to my family; what could be more valuable than that?"

One of the first students to enter Florence One's International Baccalaureate program, Ingram congratulated the district on the work that it is doing educating students, specifically in STEAM-related fields.

South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, before presenting the Florence One Honor Roll Teachers and the 2015 Teacher of the Year, also congratulated the district and the community.

"I've got to hang out in the Magic City more often," Spearman said. "It is so impressive what you are doing in Florence. Your community is doing exactly what needs to happen in every community across our state, preparing every graduate to be ready for the next step."

Spearman said she wants to see what Florence is doing replicated throughout the state.

"How I wish that I could clone you and this foundation and drop you in all of the communities across this state," Spearman said. "I am going to be talking about you and what you are doing through the Florence foundation as I travel across South Carolina. Thank you for the opportunities that you are giving every child in Florence District One."

Paying homage to Ingram's stints on "Jeopardy," the academic challenge teams from all three Florence One high schools played several rounds of trivia with questions about Florence's past, influential leaders in the community and, of course, Florence School District One.

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