College senior earns, learns on 'Jeopardy!'

August 30, 1994|By Kathryn Markham | Kathryn Markham,Contributing Writer

Answer: It will help you to meet people, earn thousands of dollars, and receive free gifts from an Armatron watch to vitamin samples.

The question? For Brooke Gallagher, it proved to be: "What is an appearance on the TV game show 'Jeopardy!'?"

Area residents who missed out the first time the 22-year-old University of Maryland-Baltimore County student appeared on "Jeopardy!" can catch her final appearance tonight.

For the college senior, the chance to be on the show was the conclusion of a long quest, beginning her sophomore year in high school, when she first sent a postcard to "Jeopardy!" producers.

Ms. Gallagher won an appearance after trying out five times. She still remembers the day when she found out she would be on the show. "It was 10:45 on Jan. 21. I met the [Federal Express] guy at the door . . . I saw the California address. I thanked the Federal Express man profusely. I wigged out on him -- he thought I was crazy.

"I tore [the package from 'Jeopardy!'] open . . . I still have it."

The magical letter that opened with the words "Congratulations, you have been selected . . ." was the beginning of "one of the best, most memorable experiences in my lifetime," says Ms. Gallagher. At first, she says, "I let it sink in. I kept thinking 'Maybe I'm just an alternate,' because I couldn't believe it."

But a little more than a month later, Ms. Gallagher was in a California studio, about to begin taping her first show.

There, she waited anxiously backstage with 14 other students, also participating in the show's college tournament. Finally, the announcement came: Ms. Gallagher would compete first.

The first round, which originally aired in May and re-ran last week, went well -- Ms. Gallagher didn'twin, but she did earn a sizable sum of money, enough to put her in the running as a "high-scoring non-winner," which qualified her to continue to the next round.

"I had to sweat through the whole week of shows to see if my score was going to be high enough," she recalls. It was, and Ms. Gallagher advanced to the semi-final rounds with eight other students. There, she competed in categories ranging from Business and Industry to The Old Testament, to see who would advance to the final rounds, with guaranteed winnings of at least $7,500. Her second episode will re-run tonight at 7:30 p.m. on WMAR (Channel 2).

Besides the cash prizes, Ms. Gallagher's experience has provided other rewards. A biological science major who hopes to continue studies in medicine, she received a letter from the dean of admissions at East Tennessee State University, her school of choice, after the dean heard her mention his school on the show. She also has become friends with other students.

Matthew Stone, a 20-year-old senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, describes Brooke as "full of life . . . contagious." The two "Jeopardy!" contestants have kept in touch since they met in the star-filled Beverly Hilton Hotel during the tournament.

"We're all randomly put together, but we all had similar interests, kind of strange eclectic things," he explains. "Even though we'd only spent time together for a few days, it was like we were best friends." Ms. Gallagher also has managed to keep in touch with other contestants through her college's e-mail.

"This whole 'Jeopardy!' thing feels like it's never going to end," says Ms. Gallagher, who is still receiving prizes. "I'm a local celebrity."

Indeed, she often finds herself approached in public by strangers. "I had 44 minutes of fame," she says.

From now on, "Who is Brooke Gallagher?" is no longer an unanswered question at UMBC.

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