No Question: Students Win Big on 'Jeopardy!'

The category is Fashion History. The clue is: It was the 49ers going to the Gold Rush by boat who gave this hat its name. This was the final question that Harvard Medical School first-year Wes Ulm missed in his fifth Jeopardy! match in June of this year. But fellow contestant Arthur M. Phillips '90 came up with the right question: "What is a Panama Hat?"

Phillips went on to win $ 63,003. Ulm and Phillips may face each other again in the Tournament of Champions which will air for two weeks beginning on Feb. 2.

In the annual Tournament of Champions, 15 previous Jeopardy! winners compete for a $100,000 prize. These 15--selected from the year's 400 contestants--have typically won four or five matches as Jeopardy! contestants in the past year.

The shows will be taped in the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California beginning on January 13th.

Ulm said that he has already made plans for what he will do with the prize money if he wins. "Harvard Medical School will be getting quite a bit of it."


Ulm, a second-year medical student at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health, Science and Technology, and Phillips, a speech writer, will be joined by a third Harvard affiliate, Daniel F. Melia '66, in the tournament. Melia is a professor of Scandinavian and Celtic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ulm first participated in a quiz competition in the sixth grade and continued throughout high school and college. He appeared on the nationally-syndicated quiz show in June of this year. Winning four matches, Ulm received $ 63,201.

Ulm said it has taken five years of auditions for the show before he was chosen to be a Jeopardy! contestant. These unsuccessful attempts "turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I got so much practice," he said.

"I decided to give it one more go before I started at the medical school," Ulm said. The summer after graduating from Duke University in 1996, he flew to Los Angeles, Calif., where he was selected to be a contestant.

In order to qualify as a contestant, interested applicants must first answer at least 35 questions correctly on a 50-questions written exam.

Those who pass the written test then play a mock Jeopardy! game and participate in a brief interview, said Laine T. Sutten, spokesperson for Jeopardy!.

"What we want is someone who looks like they're having fun," Sutten said. About 400 contestants are chosen from about 25,000 people who audition each year, she said.

J.J. Todor '95 said he knows this process all too well. A third-year student at Harvard Law School, Todor was selected to be a contestant on the regular Jeopardy! show, which will air Feb. 17, 1998. Todor flew to L.A. in November to participate in the bimonthly audition process.

"I got a call the next week from the producers saying they wanted me to tape," Todor said. Todor's matches were taped earlier this month.

"I am not allowed to say anything about the results of the show," Todor said, "or else any prizes that I might have won will be imperiled."

Todor, who has been a member of the Harvard College Bowl team since his sophomore year at the College, said his participation with College Bowl was "good preparation for answering questions and developing mental toughness."

If he wins four or five matches, Todor, like Ulm and the others, will qualify for the annual tournament.

While contestants can potentially win a lot of money, Todor said that most are drawn to the game out of personal interest. "Even though there's a chance to win money, most people are there because they like the game," Todor said