The J!Effect Alumni Stories
J!Alumni: Decades of the J!Effect
Career changes, charitable donations, school tuitions and new homes: These are just a few ways Jeopardy! has changed contestants' lives. Read updates from your favorites below.
Pictured: Maryanne and Michael
I was working as an elementary art teacher when I realized my dream of appearing on Jeopardy!
From Trivia Geek to Cheese Freak
I was working as an elementary art teacher when I realized my dream of appearing on Jeopardy! in 2013. When I got on, I didn't win enough to get into any real trouble, but I did secure enough to get a beautiful 30-quart Hobart mixer. You see, I'd always thought it'd be fun to try to take my "famous-within-the-family" pimento Cheese to market. So that's what I did. In early 2014, my then girlfriend, now wife/babymama started Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale in a small booth inside of Uptown Charlotte's 7th Street Public Market. In the nearly 5 years since, I've gone full-time, we have 8 employees, and we make a couple hundred tons a year of a product that is sold up and down the east coast and as far west as Texas. We've appeared in publications as varied as the Boston Globe and Southern Living, and absolutely NOBODY misses a chance to tell their audience how I got my "seed money". Not a day goes by that I don't thank y'all for allowing me to pursue this madcap adventure.
Winnings for my son
When I was in the tryout stage (way back in December 1990, at Merv Griffin's Resorts, Atlantic City), I mentioned that if I were to win "big money" (no, I'm not channeling Wheel of Fortune here), it would go toward the education of my son, who was in utero at the time. He's now 27. We are pictured at the Blue Hill Fair in Maine.
A bonus of my taping is that I felt I was in the contestant room with 14 of my best friends. It would be naive to admit that none of us didn't want to win, but I felt as happy for their success (or their hard effort) as I felt for my own!
Three-time winner (but not of Final Jeopardy!)
I was a three-time Jeopardy! champion in 1992. I won a grand total of $11,599. Yes, that whopping, pretax amount. Besides the fact that the amounts on the board were smaller back then, I also ended up having low Jeopardy! earnings because I blew each and every Final Jeopardy! question. Yep, the only reason I won was because I bet better than the others, who blew the final question as well.
That Boy that was on Jeopardy!
After my episode aired in July 2013, it was incredible how supportive the residents of my hometown were of my success. I was invited to appear on local radio stations and television segments, and people would come up to me in public places and ask, "Were you the kid that was on Jeopardy!?" It was strange at first. I mean, I even had one person pick me up off my feet outside a restaurant in Louisville once. However, my appearance on the show did open a lot of doors, as I was able to buy my first vehicle when I turned 16 and to travel abroad to Greece and Italy during my junior and senior years of high school. I am currently pursuing a degree in chemical engineering at the University of Kentucky. I still get recognized from time to time, even five years later, and I guess I'll always be known as that boy who was on Jeopardy!
Following my Dreams post-Jeopardy!
Growing up, I had two dreams: going on Jeopardy! and becoming an urban planner. After winning the 2011 Teen Tournament during my senior year of high school, I turned my attention toward goal #2, putting my winnings toward studying geography at George Washington University. I went on to grad school at the University of Maryland, and I’m now living my other dream as a transportation planner in beautiful San Francisco, California! On top of that, after appearing on the show, Jeopardy! champion David Madden asked me to help him with a few history-based academic tournaments around the D.C. area. For eight years, I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of this project’s growth into an international, interdisciplinary organization that brings the love of trivia to students all around the world.
A College Reunion Worth Attending
My experience as a semifinalist on the inaugural Jeopardy! College Championship has impacted my life in more ways than I can articulate. First and foremost, it's given me a great story to tell for almost three decades. I spent 10 of those years as a full-time college professor. Hearing my account of how I "coulda-shoulda-woulda" been a finalist (and, who knows, perhaps the champion) consistently deepened my students' engagement in our learning dynamic, especially when I'd break out the PowerPoint Jeopardy! games I had created for them to play in class.
What's Your J!Effect Story?
No matter if your story is big or small, personal or shared, touching or just plain funny – we want to hear it! Submit Your Story: