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
Robomom Reaches Out
I had wanted to be on Jeopardy! since Mrs. Bowie Kuhn was on the program back in the 1960s. When she said you had to pass a test to be on the show, I decided that was the one for me.
When I actually took and passed the test, and then got the call, I was thrilled. The crew was amazing – they accommodated me and my wheelchair, screwing a director's chair to a box so that I would be the same height as everyone else.
Alex and I talked about the "Robomom" nickname my kids had given me and about my multiple medical "gifts." When the first show aired, I had a call that evening from a woman in Virginia who had the same condition. I had always planned that I would share my winnings with charity. I had no idea that I would also be sharing my life story with other people. That was even more precious. Thanks, Jeopardy!
A voice from my past ...
I was introduced in the show as a police officer from Rockville Centre, NY. So after my two shows aired, I received a phone call from the Rockville Centre Police Department. They had received a phone call from a Miss Weiszmiller who was my third-grade teacher. She told me that Jeopardy! was one of her favorite shows and how proud she was to have a former student on the show. She said she remembered me as being a voracious reader even as a third-grader.
First, I (finally) paid off my student loan after more than 20 years.
Then I indulged myself with some of my winnings toward my real passion: astronomy. Because I only had a five-inch telescope, I bought myself a much larger telescope and mount – a full nine-and-a-quarter-inch scope that lets me see a lot deeper than before.
I'm also using my winnings to travel around the Southwest to go to star parties and to visit astronomical sites. A star party is where other astronerds like me go out camping with our scopes for up to a week at a time to do some serious astronomy from a very dark sky site, as far away from civilization and its light pollution as possible.
It's been pretty fun that some of my friends here in Denver now refer to me as "Jeopardy! Jon." Although that could just refer to my penchant for getting into trouble.
The Birth of Andrew
Our son Andrew was born four days before I taped the Jeopardy! episodes I appeared in. At the end of the first episode (which I won!), I asked Alex if he could ask me about Andrew during the interview segment of the next episode. He graciously agreed, and I was able to announce Andrew's birth on national television. Andrew is now 27 and taking the Jeopardy! online test in the hope of becoming a legacy champion.
My 15 minutes
I may have gotten walloped by Ken Jennings, but I can always say I lost to the longest running champ in Jeopardy! history. I work with special-needs kids, and they get the biggest kick out of knowing Mrs. L was on Jeopardy! (They think I know everything – so it's good to be loved.) Sometimes I think what if ... but I am so glad I made it to the show. Since I came in a distant second, I can also say I beat someone that day! :) Thanks for one of the most fun experiences of my life.
The Game That Almost Got Away
After 32 years, what I remember most about the experience are the answers I got wrong, how nerve-wracking it was, and that my cousin had an entire bar in Boston cheering me on every night.
My third game was a near disaster, including a spectacularly stupid answer in the STUPID ANSWERS category. Far behind my two opponents in Final Jeopardy! and faced with a category (POSTAGE STAMPS) about which I knew nothing, I bet $0 of my meager total.
I answered, "What is I don't know?" to the Final Jeopardy! clue. As I'd hoped, both my opponents bet big and got it wrong, resulting in my undeserved victory. I went on to win two more games before being retired as a five-time champion, as was the custom back then.
Most importantly, "Jeopardy! champion" replaced "He had great potential" as my epitaph.
What's Your J!Effect Story?
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