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Penn State’s Hester Blum Competes In ‘Jeopardy!’ Professor’s Tournament

Penn State English professor Hester Blum competed in the first-ever ‘Jeopardy!’ Professor’s Tournament Monday night against Gautam Hans, a Vanderbilt Law professor, and Gary Hollis, a chemistry professor of Roanoke College.

The Jeopardy! round consisted of the categories ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Turned 75, Lesser-Known Marsupials, Elbow Patches, Magazines, Post-Doctoral, and Pope-Pourri.

Blum was the first to answer a clue, but she did not answer correctly and lost some momentum in the first round. She eventually picked back up again and answered some Pope-Pourri and Lesser-Known Marsupials clues, raking in $1,400 by the end of the round. Hans and Hollis ended the round with $2,200 and $7,900, respectively.

After the commercial break, Blum told host Mayim Bialik about her love for the works of Herman Melville. Blum is publishing an edition of “Moby Dick” in May 2022, and she talked about how her edition’s introduction will explore the novel’s ties to environmentalism, disability, sexuality, and more.

Then, Double Jeopardy began with categories including Languages, Girl Groups, We Get Letters, African-American Authors, There’s Always Room for Canada, and Finals.

Blum started off Double Jeopardy with the African-American Authors category and received a picture clue. Blum correctly answered “Tupac” and continued to work through the category. Of the six clues in African-American Authors, Blum won five.

About halfway through Double Jeopardy, Blum picked her first and only Daily Double from Languages for $1,600. The clue read: “It’s the group of 500 or more related languages that include Xhosa & Swahili.” Blum hesitated to answer but eventually settled with Bantu, which was correct, and added $3,200 to her total.

By the end of Double Jeopardy, Blum sat with $8,600, Hans held on with $5,400, and Hollis led with $21,000.

The Final Jeopardy category was Aesthetic Movements. Its clue read: “This turn-of-the-century movement was alternately known around the world as Nieuwe Kunst & Modernista.”

The first to read out their guess was Hans, who said “Avant-Garde” and wagered $5,399. Hans did not have the correct answer and had his total bumped down to $1.

Next, Blum guessed “Art Nouveau.” She did not have the correct spelling, but since phonetically she guessed correctly, her wager of $3,400 was added to Blum’s total, bringing her to end the game with $12,000.

Hollis was last to answer the Final Jeopardy clue, writing down “Avant-Garde.” Hollis wagered just $1,000, so by the end of the game, he was still in the lead with $20,000.

Hollis will move on to the semifinals of the Profesor’s Tournament, but that doesn’t take Blum out of the running. She could get picked as a wild card and also move on to the semifinals depending on how her $12,000 total holds up against contestants in the other four rounds of the quarterfinals.

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About the Author

Mackenna Yount

Mackenna is a junior food science major from Manitou Springs, Colorado, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She loves food, is addicted to coffee, and can give you random facts or bad jokes that you didn't ask for. Ask her to bake gluten-free goodies so she has an excuse to try out new cupcake flavors. Mackenna can be contacted via Twitter @mackennayount (especially if you want to show off your best dad jokes) or you can shoot her an email at [email protected].

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