Jeopardy winner comes to Tecumseh for a TDL Jeopardy showdown

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Jeopardy host Alex Trebek and Stephanie Jass. Photo submitted.

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Tecumseh District Library (TDL) welcomes Adrian College history professor Dr. Stephanie Jass, to discuss her eight-day run on the popular game show “Jeopardy!” The Milan resident has won more “Jeopardy!” games than any other woman. Her $147,570 in winnings puts her among the top 15 winners in the game show’s history.

The evening also features a TDL Jeopardy Tournament with Jass facing off against Tecumseh City Manager Kevin Welch and TDL Director S. Gayle Hazelbaker in the first game and Tecumseh Mayor Dick Johnson and Tecumseh Area Historical Society President Eric Burdick in a second match-up.

Jass considers herself an information junkie. Every day on her commute from her home in Milan to Adrian College she listens to National Public Radio, and she is a regular viewer of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” for political perspective. Internet blogs are part of her daily information gathering as well.

“I love to read, so I’ll take info from any source available,” Jass said.

Support from her husband as well as her father-in-law gave Jass an edge when it came to competing on “Jeopardy!” Her husband, Doug Baker, encouraged Jass to take the online test a second time to get on the show, and her father-in-law, Ken Baker, built her a light up device to practice question response time. Although memory and knowledge are important to win on the trivia-based game show, it takes more to win.

“Knowledge gets you into the contestant pool, but the reflexes and quick recall are what allow you to win, and win repeatedly,” Jass said.

An unexpected benefit of her time on “Jeopardy!” was becoming friends with her competitors. During her return on the Tournament of Champions, to air in February, Jass was surprised at how close the group became.

“It was also surprising to find out how many people watched, and how many fans I got,” said Jass.

The pressure came knowing she only had limited time to win. “There was no going back to fix it or improve it,” Jass said. “If you didn’t perform right then and there, it was all over.”

Returning for the Tournament of Champions was more fun for Jass. “I knew more what to expect and could let loose with the crew and fellow contestants,” she said. “It was a celebratory atmosphere and I really enjoyed it.”

It will take hard work and speed for Jass’s competitors at the TDL Jeopardy! Tournament to take her down. “They need to be fast, at least faster than me,” Jass said and advised “Focus, focus, focus!”

For those interested in becoming a contestant on “Jeopardy!” Jass has several suggestions, including going online and visiting J-Archive and the forum at jboard.tv.

“There are ways to prepare, and you should do all you can to prepare,” said Jass. “Start by taking the online test for fun, just to see how you do. If you’re picked to audition, you need to think about how to present yourself as an appealing contestant. Be likeable and fun, if at all possible.

Now that her time on Jeopardy! is over, Jass focuses on her work as a history professor at Adrian College where she has taught since 2005. She loves her job, especially working with the students.

“I love to perform, and teaching is part performance at least for me,” said Jass. “I love talking with my students and getting them to challenge their beliefs, their worldviews and their assumptions. It’s so great to watch students evolve and learn right in front of me.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Valparaiso University, Jass attended Bowling Green State University for her master’s degree in American culture studies. She has a doctorate in history from Western Michigan University.

No stranger to the Tecumseh District Library, Jass was pleased to be invited to speak. “I lived in Tecumseh for two years when I first got the job at Adrian College, so I held a TDL library card and certainly borrowed books from that fine establishment,” she said. “I still have free books that I got from the book exchange, and a tote bag that I won, somehow.”

Jass appreciates all the local interest and support she’s received from people in the community. “I’d really like to thank everyone locally who has been so great to me; I get comments all the time when I go out, and they’re always supportive,” she said. “I’m glad I could represent the area well, and I’m grateful for all the good wishes and congratulations that people have offered.”

Jass’s appearance at the library is free and open to the public. It will be in Meeting Room A in the library’s lower level. The library is located at 215 N. Ottawa Street, and for additional information, call Chuck Harpst, Reference/Local History Librarian at 423.2238.




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