Warren Wilson professor finishes 'Jeopardy!' run, reflects on game show experience

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Alisa Hove, chair of the Warren Wilson biology department, finished third in the "Jeopardy! Professors Tournament" on Dec. 17.

Alisa Hove, Warren Wilson chair of the biology department and professor of botany, ended her winning streak with third place in the final round of the "Jeopardy! Professors Tournament" on Dec. 17. 

"Overall the experience of going on 'Jeopardy!' was something that I went into just hoping to have fun with," Hove said. "It really exceeded my expectations." 

Hove said she enjoyed have the opportunity to see the intricacies of running a game show like "Jeopardy!" and to see all the work that goes into presenting the show everyday on TV. 

Sam Buttrey, an associate professor of operations research at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, won the final round of the "Professors Tournament" and the $100,000 grand prize, as well as a seat on the show's "Tournament of Champions." 

“This has been the greatest time and to come out ahead of all these other great players is something I’ll remember forever,” Buttery said. "The money isn't what we're here for, it's just the opportunity to play the game."

Ed Hashima, a history professor at American River College in Sacramento, California, finished in second place with $50,000, followed by Hove with a prize of $25,000. 

Buttery won the game with the correct answer of Georges Seurat to the question of the inventor of pointillist painting in Final Jeopardy! 

Having gone into the tournament expecting a challenge, Hove said she felt prepared, even though the first quarterfinal game was difficult for her, with buzzing in quickly and answering tough clues. Hove was proud of her accomplishment of correctly answering the Daily Double to seal her first win. 

In addition to her own victory, Hove was surprised by the "Hollywood style" ending, where her two fellow competitors received wild card seats to continue to the next round. 

"I think of 'Jeopardy!' really as a game where one person wins and two other people don't so having a moment where you win but also your colleagues win was a total shock," Hove said. 

Despite the competition, Hove said all the contestants got along really well. She said she enjoyed speaking with fellow educators about teaching at various institutions and appreciated the variety of backgrounds from community colleges to large, public universities to liberal arts colleges and historically Black colleges. 

"To be here is just surreal," Hove told the game show host, Mayim Bialik, at the conclusion of the final round. "To be here with fellow people who have a passion for discovery and education is just an extra big treat."

Hove said she plans to use her winnings to take her family to Vietnam, to have the chance to show her children their family's heritage. Although much of the world remains closed to foreign travel due to the pandemic, Hove said she's optimistic that it will soon be an option for everyone to travel more freely. 

Having enjoyed the entire experience, from the initial process through to the game show, Hove said if anyone is considering trying out for "Jeopardy!," they should do it.

"From the initial online test through the audition through actually being there, it was really cool," Hove said.