After winning a quarter of a million dollars and breaking the record for the most winnings by a black contestant on ABC’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Nancy A. Redd ’03 returned to Cambridge with less than half of her earnings and nothing flashy or new to her name. All her childhood years spent in the 4-H Club certainly taught Redd to value her head, hands and health—but most of all they must have touched her heart: Redd donated the majority of her winnings to the organization.
But she does not have time to rest on her pecuniary laurels. In between reading congratulatory cards and gracefully turning down marriage proposals, Redd has found time to work on writing a book on the SAT gender gap, which will help others tap into her talent for answering multiple choice questions. Obviously, Redd is into sharing these days.
In addition to being a 4-H benefactor, Redd is now also an official 4-H national spokesperson. In a strange series of coincidences, the mother of the program’s national public relations director happened to catch Redd’s mention of 4-H on “Millionaire” and beseeched her daughter to get Redd more heavily involved in the organization. Redd was receptive to the offer and will now travel monthly to deliver speeches to groups of children. This is actually familiar territory for Redd—last spring, she commuted to New York City on a regular basis to deliver motivational speeches to students on behalf of the Princeton Review.
Either Redd is used to praise and gets tired of it quickly or (more likely) she is the most modest game show winner, national spokesperson and soon-to-be-published author ever interviewed. She would much rather talk about others then discuss her own “little” accomplishments. She says she is constantly motivated and inspired by her peers. “There are two types of people here at Harvard: those who are too overwhelmed by others and those who are completely motivated and pushed by the others,” she says, aligning herself with the latter group. “
While Redd’s resume boasts of her “Millionaire” success, her book deal and her contribution to the 4-H Club, in person she admits she is most proud of her less concrete accomplishments. She says she is happy that after two and a half years at Harvard she has maintained her wits, stayed sane and done proud her mom and the citizens of her hometown—Martinsville, Va.
For those who know Redd best, her appearance on the show in the first place is much more surprising than the fact that she took home such a hefty sum of money. Redd says she actually hates game shows and never watches them. But the combination of her brother’s love for “Millionaire,” her own class-free Friday schedule and pure boredom led her to the Boston “Millionaire” auditions late last year. After a trivia quiz and quick interview, she was notified that she had been accepted onto the show, but producers informed her that they would not call her on for at least two years. But she was on a lucky streak already—and a little more than three weeks later, Redd was in the hot seat.
The skills that made Redd a game show winner, national spokesperson for a major public service organization and part-time inspirational speaker have also gone into her job as co-author of The Girl’s Guide to the SAT: The 40-Point Gender Gap and What YOU Can Do About It, coming this summer from Random House and the Princeton Review. According to Redd and co-author Ron Foley Jr., the book explores the history of the gender gap in standardized test scores from a sociological perspective and suggests measures that young females can take to tackle the problem.
While Foley originally contracted to write the book himself, he says he needed someone “down on the ground” to co-write. That’s where Redd, who conveniently is female and did well on her SATs, came into the picture. Redd regularly works as a freelance writer for educational websites, including that of the Princeton Review, and one of her editors mentioned Foley’s quest for a co-author. “The editor and I had only communicated via e-mail and one day she sent me an e-mail asking if I happened to know any minorities who were successful and had high SAT scores because she had a great opportunity available for them,” Redd remembers, laughing. “I said ‘How about me?’” Redd suddenly found herself living what she calls a “Sex and the City” life in New York City this past summer as she wrote and researched for the project.
As a women’s studies concentrator, Redd contributed the information and research on gender while Foley, who she terms an SAT guru, wrote on the standardized test itself, including trends across gender and racial lines and combative strategies. Although Foley expected a research assistant in Redd, he says he was pleasantly surprised by her professionalism, expertise and commitment to the project. “I am happy to count her as a friend and not just a collaborator. I really look forward to watching her career grow, and her grow into her career,” he gushes. “I’m pushing Nancy to become a U.S. Senator because that encompasses about every type of skill one can imagine, and she has all of them. She is certainly one to watch.”