Rowan Prof Becomes Three-Day Jeopardy Champ, Talks About Her Experience

By: Nazmul Noyim, Follow South Jersey Intern

Rowan professor Melissa Klapper with Jeopardy host Ken Jennings. Photo credit: Rowan University.

GLASSBORO, N.J. – Melissa Klapper, a Rowan University history professor, is a three-time “Jeopardy” champion from March 20-22, with a total winning of $60,100. Her three game win streak was ended by Alec Chao, a management and programming analyst.  

Klapper has been teaching at Rowan for 22 years, and she is also the coordinator of the women’s and gender studies program. She is also the author of books on the history of childhood and American Jewish history, her latest book is Ballet Class:An American History. While getting her degree, Klapper was a kickboxing fitness instructor. But despite all that, she has always been a huge Jeopardy fan.

“I’ve always been a Jeopardy fan,” said Klapper. “I grew up in a family that always watched Jeopardy together. We had a Jeopardy board game, and I even tried out for the team tournament when I was in high school but didn’t make it far that time.”

This longtime fan passed a series of online written tests, then auditioned in a mock game over Zoom to qualify as a “Jeopardy” contestant. Over the winter break, she flew out to Los Angeles to appear in the show which is taped two to three months before the actual air date.

Her desire to read, learn, and teach is what led her to be successful in this popular game show. 

“There’s no way to really prepare for the show,” she said. “All of the categories are very random so you just have to be knowledgeable. When I was told a month before appearing in the show, I spent that time period studying  science, which is my weak area,” .

There are five games that are taped in a day, and each game is aired on a different day. With her knowledge, she was able to win three of the games.

“Like many other contestants, I knew way more of the questions that I am able to answer because part of playing Jeopardy is also being good on the buzzer which I’m not so good at,” Klapper said. “After the host finishes reading the question, there is a light that flashes which the people at home can’t see. Only after the light flashes can you buzz in.”

Klapper was  dethroned by Alec Chao in her fourth appearance on March 23. She missed her chance to catch up to Chao in the daily-double wagers, but she came out with a total of  $60,100. 

“I had to keep my winnings a secret until the shows aired,” she said. “Only my husband knew because he was at the show, but we kept it quiet for about two months. Only now people are sending messages to congratulate me.”

“I am involved with some philanthropy groups so I will definitely be donating some,” she continued. “My husband and I were already planning a trip to England so we will have a few upgrades to that. We will do a little renovation and put the money in savings. I’m not a big spend all at once kind of person.”

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