Almanac News - Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Star M-A alum, 22, found dead on Cape Cod beach
A future in political and economic science is cut short.

Daniel Barclay had made his mark at Menlo-Atherton High School between 2000 and 2003 as a star on the school's Bay Area Quiz Kids team.  The school never lost the Jeopardy-like contest while he was playing, according to his mother, Menlo Park resident Sue Kayton.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he majored in economics and political science, Mr. Barclay, 22, had written a thesis on predicting the outcomes of elections and had won thousands in bets on the 2004 presidential election, Ms. Kayton said. Elections were becoming something of a forte: His purchase of futures contracts in "Hillary Clinton for President" had quadrupled in value, his mother said. He would have graduated from MIT in June, and had accepted a job as a currency trader at a Boston firm.

But on the afternoon of Friday, April 20, a birdwatcher discovered Mr. Barclay's body washed up on Scusset Beach in the town of Bourne on Cape Cod. The cause of death was drowning, Michael Trudeau, the first assistant district attorney for the Cape and Islands District, told the Almanac.

Local police are investigating and the local medical examiner is preparing a toxicology report, Mr. Trudeau said, adding that Mr. Barclay had been missing for 12 days and that there was no indication of foul play.

Mr. Barclay's parents, Sue Kayton and Michael Barclay, will be using the proceeds of the Hillary Clinton futures contracts to help friends and colleagues pay for grief counseling, Ms. Kayton said on a memorial Web page at

During his youth, Dan attended Menlo Park public schools, including Las Lomitas and Oak Knoll elementary and Hillview Middle School, as well as M-A. He was an Eagle Scout with Troop 109, his mother said.

At MIT, he joined the debating team, where he qualified twice for the national tournament and once for the world-wide tourney, his mother said. He had received the 2006 Jeffrey L. Pressman Award to research an aspect of U.S. political party realignment.

A tactful assistant

M-A social studies teacher Bob Hasbrook first noticed Daniel Barclay in his freshman year, when Mr. Hasbrook recruited him for the school's first Quiz Kids team. An extraordinary partnership between teacher and student had begun.

As a freshman, Dan enrolled in a sophomore honors class in western civilization and excelled, Mr. Hasbrook said. As a sophomore, he did the same in Mr. Hasbrook's advanced-placement senior class in European history.  "He was accelerating," Mr. Hasbrook said.  Dan would often be ready with a comment elucidating an aspect of Renaissance philosophy or a 19th century treaty. To let his teacher know, they developed a system of discreet signals and glances, Mr. Hasbrook said.  "I sort of taught Dan a diplomatic way of saving a teacher's ass," he said. "The combination of Bob Hasbrook and Dan Barclay taught my AP class and I don't think the kids were any the wiser."

"He was very good at connecting" historical dots, Mr. Hasbrook said. "His expertise was geo-political whatever. ... He is, by far, the most knowledgeable kid about the geo-political world that I had ever come across. By far."  Dan lived and breathed geo-politics, Mr. Hasbrook said. At lunch, he could usually be found with three cohorts playing "Diplomacy," a "very intense" board game about strategy and tactics in 1914-era Europe.

Quiz kid extraordinaire

Dan's four-year tenure on the Quiz Kids left little doubt about his mental agility and ability to recall facts.  The college-bowl format tests two three-person high school teams against the clock and against each other's astuteness in topics ranging from Greek mythology to U.S. and European history to popular culture.  "He put M-A on the map with the Quiz Kids team," said Eric Hartwig, the principal at M-A while Dan was a student there. "He was a terrific contributor to the school. If he were an athlete, he would have been an All-American."  "He was the kind of once-in-a-lifetime kid that you come across in this business," Mr. Hartwig added. "He really loved intellectual stuff. He just dove in and conquered that stuff, just for the heck of it."

And if it wasn't intellectual, he tackled that, too. "One of the areas he knew nothing about was popular culture," Mr. Hasbrook said. So in preparing for an upcoming match, Dan read an encyclopedia on popular culture, Mr. Hasbrook said.  "He digested the thing over a weekend," he said. "He had this photographic memory. He retained everything."

Mr. Hartwig also recalled the popular culture anecdote. "It was as if he had studied this new discipline he had created for himself," Mr. Hartwig said. "He was determined he was going to carry his weight. To just go outside (his field) like that. That kid had moxie."

Dan also had moments where his breadth of knowledge could work against him. One question sought the name of three Caribbean islands colonized by the Dutch. "A, B, C," snapped Dan in a quick response. Wrong, said the host, who passed the question to the other side, Mr. Hasbrook recalled.  The correct answer was Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, also known as "The ABC Islands" to people more familiar with them.  "Dan was sometimes too smart," Mr. Hasbrook said. "He'd give an answer that wouldn't jibe with us mortals."

He is survived by his parents, Sue Kayton and Michael Barclay, and his sister, Rachel, 19. There will be a memorial service in Menlo Park on a date to be announced, the family said. In lieu of flowers, the family prefers donations to an endowment they may establish at a later date.


Memories of Daniel Barclay may be posted at