A sophomore from Harvard University...

Jonathan Hawley

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Well, um, my dream has always been to go into politics or public service, so I guess I'd be a bit young, but, y'know, it's something to shoot for.

How did you prepare for the show?
I prepared for the show by finding an Internet web site that has every old Jeopardy! question ever, so the past few weeks my roommates have been quizzing me at all hours of the day, making sure I knew every little bit of information.

What are you most excited about today?
Just being on this show. I've watched Jeopardy! since I was in kindergarten, I guess, and you know, the number of right answers I've managed to get right over the years has increased, if not my level of maturity, so it's just great being here. It's always been a dream of mine, and it couldn't be better.

What's the coolest thing about your university?
Well, Harvard--my favorite fact about Harvard is that we have the most, uh, alumni who have gone on to become president of the United States: 2 Adams, 2 Roosevelts, and a Kennedy.

What do you think of your competition?
You are goin' down, chump!

2008 College Championship quarterfinalist: $5,000.

19 and from Oceanside, CA at the time of the College Championship.

Jonathan's First Blog Entry
Posted May 2, 2008

Ever since kindergarten, I've wanted to compete on Jeopardy! For as long as I can remember, my family has been tuning in at 7:30 to watch the show. (Over the years, the number of my correct answers has increased, if not my level of maturity.) During my first semester here at Harvard, my mom called and told me the date and time of the online College Jeopardy! test. I tried out last year, but didn't make it; this time, I guess I got lucky!

I'm currently a sophomore at Harvard College. Where I am now is a long way from sunny southern California where I grew up. I'm majoring (or "concentrating," as we insist on calling it) in history, and I hope to pursue a career in politics or public service someday.

I clearly remember when I got that fateful phone call informing me that I was picked for the show, even if the circumstances were, shall we say, less than ideal. I was barely recovering from a terrible stomach virus, and was lying prostrate on my bed when the phone rang. I recognized the voice immediately as being that of Robert, one of the Jeopardy! officials from the tryout in New York City. He didn't start by saying that I was on the show; instead, he asked some questions about my college attendance and other things. As the call continued, I got the feeling that this was no ordinary conversation, and finally he asked me the question: "How would you like to compete on College Jeopardy!?" Suddenly, my stomach wasn't bothering me too much anymore!

The first person I called was my mom, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and proud Badger. Even though she was in a public place, she let out a yelp of glee that made me jump. She went outside so she could continue her joyful screaming. I had the feeling that by the time she was done, everyone in that restaurant knew I was going to be on the show. My mom has been quite the publicist; everyone from our mailman to our dentist (or whomever she makes eye contact with) is eagerly awaiting the show!

Since then I've been preparing for the big day. I've gone to a few trivia nights and have continued memorizing college mascots (which has been a little disheartening, as Harvard doesn't really have a mascot). For the finishing touch, I went out and bought a brand new sweatshirt to wear on the air!

- Read Jonathan's next entry on May 5!

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Posted May 5, 2008

Before anything else, I have to give my compliments to the people who designed the Madison Regional Airport. It's a very cozy place that feels more like a home furnishing catalogue than a travel hub. Right away, I got the sense that Madison was going to be a great place, and I wasn't disappointed. There's nothing quite like a college town. Throw in a beautiful campus, some of the best folks I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, and a remarkable state capitol, and you have Madison, Wisconsin. I've always had a natural affection for the city, as my mom went to UW Madison. But not until I visited did I fully realize what an amazing city it is!

I had a few hours to kill on the first Wednesday, so I relaxed in the hotel. While there, I first partook of an amazing Wisconsin tradition: the fried cheese curd. I am truly going to miss those delectable little morsels!

On Thursday, it was time to film the promotional ads. That meant meeting the man himself – Alex Trebek! I've grown up watching the show, so meeting Alex was naturally a big deal. Heck, the man is an American icon! I've known he was smart and maybe even a trifle eccentric (in a good way!), but I also found out that he's very funny! This was a particularly pleasant surprise, and his sense of humor made the experience very enjoyable. That same day, I had the honor of meeting Jim Doyle, the Governor of Wisconsin. That too was quite a thrill! After a delicious dinner with my family (I had a cheese melt burger; I figured I had to have plenty of cheese while I was in American's Dairyland), I went to sleep very nervous, but also very excited for the next day – filming!

I'm going to go ahead and save my recollections of the taping for later, so I'd like to finish up by saying something about my fellow competitors. The only thing I knew about all of them before we met was their schools. I quickly found out, though, that each and every one of them is incredibly smart, endlessly nice, and a truly remarkable person. I couldn't have asked for a better group with which to spend those fantastic days. In the short time since I've come back to Harvard, I've realized something. I'll probably someday forget the answers I got right on the show and (thankfully!) the answers I got wrong. I might even forget the words I shared with Alex. But I won't soon forget the memories of that wonderful group of friends I got to know. They made my experiences all the richer, and I can't thank them enough!

- Tune for Jonathan's quarter-final game on May 9 and check back here for his next blog entry!

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Posted May 9, 2008

Even now, weeks later, the taping of my episode of Jeopardy! is still something of a blur. But I think I can piece together some memories to tell my story.

First of all, when you're up there behind that podium, everything moves FAST. When I sit and watch the show at home, it seems like it lasts the full half hour. But up there, it flies by and feels like three minutes. That made the entire experience all the more exhilarating!

I remember the very beginning of the show, when that familiar music plays and Johnny Gilbert announces, "This Is Jeopardy!" The crowd roared, and I smiled into the camera as they said my name. Just thinking about that still sends chills down my spine. I had wanted to compete on Jeopardy! since before I can remember, so actually being there, with my hands on the podium, was a thrill unlike any other. Then, the man himself, the one and only Alex Trebek, strode on stage. At that moment, it all hit me – this was for real!

As the answers and questions began in earnest, one thing that definitely struck me was how hard that darn buzzer is to use. I was so used to yelling answers at my TV that I didn't know what to do! I guess I figured a good strategy after a while, but I can say with certainty that that's the hardest part about the show. If anyone is planning on competing, I strongly advise an exhaustive workout of finger exercises beforehand!

Double Jeopardy! arrived and I kept on buzzing, even when I, uh, didn't exactly know the answer. I'm pretty proud of a few responses I did get, though – Stephen Vincent Benet, the U.S. Capitol, the Pauley Pavilion, and Key West. I came to realize that all the years I've spent poring over random trivia was definitely worth it!

When Final Jeopardy! rolled around, I was behind, but still going. The category, "Ancient Times," wasn't exactly what I was hoping for. Being a scholar of modern American history, I was wishing for something a little more, well, recent. I decided to bet all but $2; go big or go home, I thought. As I wrote down my final response of the night, I reflected for a brief moment how lucky I was and that win or lose, this was an experience I'd remember forever.

As I stood next to Alex during the closing credits, I mustered up my best Sean Connery voice and said, "Good game, Trebek!" That instant definitely made the whole thing worth it.

- Read Jonathan's final entry on May 16th!

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EPILOGUE:
Posted May 16, 2008

My experiences in my post-Jeopardy! world have been just great. I returned to Harvard with my head held high and some really cool souvenirs. Throughout the next weeks, my friends and classmates would come up to me and excitedly ask,
"So – how'd you do?" I'd smile and tell them that I had to sign a privacy agreement. "You'll just have to tune in," I'd say coyly.

I'm planning on having a big party in my dorm the night of the show. In honor of the great state of Wisconsin, I'll be sure that cheese is served!

Looking back on those few days, I still get a warm feeling thinking about everything that happened. But what I want to spend some time on is the people, because they're the ones that made it all extraordinary. I've already written about my worthy competitors who quickly became good friends, but I'll say this one more time: they're all truly special, and I couldn't have asked for a better group to share the experience with.

I also want to take this moment to thank the Jeopardy! crew. Maggie, Robert, and the whole gang were some of the best and most caring people I've ever had the privilege of meeting. Their kindness, humor, and generosity not only helped me keep my cool, but also made my time even more exceptional. I won't soon forget how for those few days, they really were my family, and showed me one of the best times I'll ever have. There are too many names of the great people at Jeopardy! to list, so I'll go ahead and say this to all of them who made me feel like a true champion: Thank You All So Much!!!

And to Alex Trebek, of course, must go special mention. It's not every day a person gets the chance to work with a cultural icon. He certainly is one of a kind, and that's the best compliment I can give him. Oh, one more thing: if you're ever looking for a replacement, I'd be glad to take the job!

I will never forget those great days at the University of Wisconsin, nor would I want to. The people, the sights, and the experiences were all beyond my wildest dreams. It was a pleasure, an honor, and unbelievably fun. I want to again thank everyone who was a part of it. And to anyone reading this who's thinking they might someday want to try out for the show, I have this to say:

GO FOR IT! You won't regret it.

Jonathan appeared in the following archived game:
#5460, aired 2008-05-09 Tara Franey vs. Jonathan Hawley vs. Than Hedman 2008 College Championship quarterfinal game 5. From the Kohl Center...

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