KENNESAW, Ga. | Apr 12, 2022
Kennesaw State University’s Owls are proving once again they have what it takes to take on the "Jeopardy!" stage, as alumna Leah Pence prepares to make an appearance this week.
The 2018 history education graduate, now a middle school social studies teacher at The Galloway School in Atlanta, beat out about 80,000 applicants over the course of her yearlong audition period to make it to the show. She called the experience a dream come true.
“I had the best time. It felt kind of like the first day of school or something. The green room where we got ready was the 'Wheel of Fortune' stage, and then walking onto the 'Jeopardy!' stage was like, ‘This is not real,’” she said. “I did fine, as far as my nerves, until I went up to play, and then I don’t remember anything.”
Pence said she was bitten by the trivia bug when she won a Disney trivia contest on a cruise ship at age 6. Carrying the love of academic competition through her life, Pence joined the academic bowl team at her high school, where her coach was a "Jeopardy!" alum.
“I think that kind of reassured me that it was possible for the average person to do it,” she said. “I don’t think there was a date where I thought, ‘Jeopardy!’ is the dream. It just sort of always has been.”
This is the second time Pence has made it through to the popular game show. The first time was when she was a student in KSU Journey Honors College. She advanced past the initial auditions but was unable to move to the next round due to a previously scheduled research trip with the College.
As for her experience this time, Pence said she enjoyed socializing with the other players around the studios in Culver City, California. She said her relationship with the other competitors made it feel like playing against friends.
And like others who have been on the show, Pence said it was challenging to keep the fact that she would appear from most of the people around her.
“I’m a big talker, so it was really hard to keep it a secret,” she said.
Pence said she and the other staff at The Galloway School will watch her episode together Tuesday night, and her students will be able to see it Wednesday.
Catherine Kaukinen, dean of the Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said she is proud to now have two Radow graduates appear recently on the "Jeopardy!" stage.
“Two of our recent graduates have now placed KSU on a national stage with their "Jeopardy!" appearances and showed what Owls can do,” Kaukinen said. “We are very proud of Leah’s endeavors on that stage and off of it, as an educator.”
In February, KSU graduate Raymond Goslow advanced to the finals of the 2022 "Jeopardy! National College Championship" and competed for the grand prize of $250,000. In the end, Goslow took second place and a $100,000 prize.
Pence will make her appearance April 12 at 7:30 p.m. on Atlanta's NBC affiliate, WXIA.
– By Thomas Hartwell
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.