The J!Effect Alumni Stories

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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

Jonathon Groubert
Season 33
First, I (finally) paid off my student loan after more than 20 years.

Jonathon Groubert

Season 33

New Telescope!

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.

Ron Reisman
Season 8
Our son Andrew was born four days before I taped the Jeopardy! episodes I appeared in.

Ron Reisman

Season 8

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.

Jennifer Lajewski
Season 20
I may have gotten walloped by Ken Jennings, but I can always say I lost to the longest running champ in Jeopardy! history.

Jennifer Lajewski

Season 20

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.

Frank Hughes
Season 3
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.

Frank Hughes

Season 3

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.

Bobby Padgett
Season 18
My appearance was on the third show of a Tuesday taping, right before the lunch break.

Bobby Padgett

Season 18

From J! Champ to Dynasty

My appearance was on the third show of a Tuesday taping, right before the lunch break. I had a horrible first round, but came back and won Final Jeopardy! with a question about Nixon and Elvis. After that, all I could think about was getting to eat there, not that I had just won $19K. The show aired on 3/21/02, which was my fourth wedding anniversary.

Two years after my show aired, I switched careers, becoming a high school teacher, and then got involved coaching the quiz bowl team, an activity I played in high school & college. My Highland Tech Rams have won the Gaston County championship nine times in the past 11 years. It still inspires awe to say I won on J!, but I want to see my players win on the show.

Judy Shewmake
Season 27
I won over $20,000 on Jeopardy at age 64 playing against 2 players younger than my children!

Judy Shewmake

Season 27

It’s never too late

I won over $20,000 on Jeopardy at age 64 playing against 2 players younger than my children!

Thank you, Jeopardy!!

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