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September 29, 2023

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University professor Bill Albertini competes on popular TV show “Jeopardy!”

A University professor won on the TV show “Jeopardy!” Monday night and no one is more surprised than him.

“It still feels not totally real,” Bill Albertini, associate professor in the English department, said.

“I was mostly just exceedingly surprised and happy that I did well on that day [Monday],” Albertini said. “I was trying to keep my expectations as low as possible.”

Albertini credits luck for his win.

He said, “I just got very lucky that I happened to get questions that I knew the answers to.”

Dave Kielmeyer, senior communications director for the University, saw Albertini’s success in a different way.

Kielmeyer said it was “a demonstration of the bright people we have in the classroom,” referring to University faculty.

He added that Albertini’s appearance on the show brought positive attention to the University.

“It’s always great for the University when someone associated with us is on a national television program and does well,” he said.

Albertini tied on Tuesday to continue on, but came in second Wednesday night even after almost doubling his money during Final Jeopardy.

Kielmeyer was still impressed.

“He did obviously do very well; he was on national TV for three days,” Kielmeyer said. “We’re all very proud of him.”

Junior Jackie O’Donnell, a student in one of Albertini’s classes, said she knew he would do well.

“Some of the things he says in class, you can tell he’s a very intelligent man,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell said she had fun watching the episodes Albertini competed in.

“I thought, ‘That’s so cool, my teacher’s on Jeopardy! and he’s doing well,’” she said.

As the show drew nearer to the end, Albertini had a sizable lead on both his competitors, which caused him to adjust his strategy.

Albertini said, “I basically stopped answering questions at that point because I was basically afraid I was going to make a mistake and lose that [lead].”

He said he wanted to “resist guessing” on any of the questions near the end.

Despite having nearly double the amount of one of the other contestants, Albertini still worried that he might lose.

“Even when it went to the final, I knew … even if I got it wrong I could still win, but I was terrified I had done the math incorrectly,” he said. “I did the math five times before I wagered.”

Before competing on Jeopardy!, Albertini was a long-time viewer. He came to attention of the show by completing an online quiz they offered.

Albertini said he took the online quiz twice but never heard back from the show the first time.

However, after the second time, “They emailed me and said ‘Do you want to come to Detroit in May and try out in person?’ and then I did,” Albertini said.

After auditioning in person in Detroit, where he took another test and played a mock game in front of the cameras, Albertini was contacted two months later and asked to come out to LA.

For Albertini, the decision to go on the show didn’t happen consciously.

“It was sort of a thing I did for fun and suddenly the ball was rolling and it felt a little beyond my control at that point so I just went with it,” Albertini said.

Albertini described the experience as “very fast.”

“Everything happened incredibly quickly and … everything was a bit of a blur,” he said. “I was probably largely panicked during the entire time.”

Despite this, Albertini found being on the show a pleasant experience.

“The people were very nice and all the other contestants were really friendly and fun to talk to. It was a good time,” he said.

Albertini said he would encouraged students to try out for the show, but O’Donnell isn’t planning to.

“I think it’s really neat, but I don’t think I could do it,” she said.

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