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winter 2018

Ben Ingram ’05 wins the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions

Returns to campus for finals viewing party

The day before Ben Ingram ’05 was to appear in his semi-final match on the “Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, a Cleveland newspaper reporter wrote about popular contestants Arthur Chu and Julia Collins, who already had won their matches and were headed to the two-day final. “‘Jeopardy!’ fans have been pining for Chu v. Collins. So has Chu,” the reporter wrote, quoting Chu as saying, “I kind of feel like we’d be cheating America if we didn’t make that matchup happen.”

While saying the “third finalist” would need to bring his or her A-game, the writer seemed to be writing off that third finalist – who turned out to be Ingram, who won his semi-final match on the program that aired Nov. 19.

Nobody should have written off Ingram, an IT consultant in Charlotte, N.C., who originally is from Florence, S.C.
Ingram came out the tournament winner ahead of both Chu and Collins—winning himself $250,000 in addition to the $177,534 he won in the summer of 2013 when he had an eight-game winning streak.

Ingram called the first night of the finals “an absolute blow-out,” even though he says it was one of the most frustrating games he’s ever played. “They were neck-in-neck and pulled away, and I just couldn’t get my signaling going at the right time.”

When the Final Jeopardy category was revealed “20th Century Presidential Elections,” Ingram was thinking back to history classes with Wofford’s Dr. Mark Byrnes.

“I thought, ‘Dr. Byrnes will really be upset if I don’t get this one,’” Ingram says. With $12,000-plus dollars, Ingram had about half the amount as Chu and trailed Collins by about $6,000. “If I could have chosen a category myself, that’s the one I would have wanted to see.”

Ingram’s Wofford education came through. He was the only one of the contestants to answer correctly, and he went into the second day of the finals with a $10,000 lead.

“I believe I had the highest individual score of any tournament,” he says, almost shyly.

When he entered the Friday night finale as the top-seed ahead of Chu and Collins, the Wofford community was beyond excited and planned a viewing party in the Campus Life building to celebrate and cheer Ingram on to victory. When Ingram walked into the building, cheers went up and students, faculty, staff and reporters from several news outlets swarmed him. During commercials he posed for photos and signed autographs, and repeatedly gave his parents, his teachers and Wofford College credit for his success.

People at the viewing party sat on the edge of their seats as they watched Ingram go into Final Jeopardy. His expression gave nothing away. The only thing Ingram would say when people would ask was: “Let’s just say, it’s going to be interesting.” Chu led with about $10,000. Ingram followed with about $6,000, and Collins with about $4,000. The totals from the first game would be added to the totals from the second.

“The final category had to do with Shakespeare and geography, and I knew that was one of Arthur’s best areas,” Ingram says. “I kind of saw it as a two-horse race, and I bet just enough to win if I got the answer right.”

He struggled with the answer, writing down something, then scratching it out and writing something else. “I just couldn’t come up with it. I missed it.”

Thankfully, so did Collins, who bet “a lot,” and Chu, who bet everything.

With his betting strategy, Ingram won the tournament, and the Wofford group watching with Ingram erupted.

And, of course, at Wofford, we never doubted him for a minute.

by Laura Hendrix Corbin