Southern Seminary student wins $34K on ‘Jeopardy!’
Years of watching “Jeopardy!” and playing trivia games paid off for Jacqueline Hawkins, a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, when she won $34,101 over two days on the popular game show, which aired March 25-26.
“From being a lifelong ‘Jeopardy!’ fan, I always wanted to be on the show,” said Hawkins, who has participated in quiz bowl competitions since middle school.
Hawkins is a full-time English professor at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, and in 2008 she also began serving as music director for South Jefferson Baptist Church. In the summer of 2014, Hawkins says she sensed conviction from God that she was not treating her position of music director as a serious calling.
“He just made it very apparent to me over last summer,” she said, “that I needed to fully commit to what I was doing in music ministry and leading in worship, and I knew one of my first steps was being equipped to do that.”
Southern Seminary had a “wonderful reputation,” and her family lived in Louisville, so she enrolled in a Master of Arts in Worship program in the seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry.
The first episode in which she competed aired March 25. During the category of answers that did not include an “L,” she was asked to name a food from the book of 1 Corinthians. Hawkins could not come up with the correct answer: meat. Later, she talked about a New Testament II class she is taking this semester. The class will cover 1 Corinthians, and she said, “I’ll know after Tuesday, April 7, whether or not that class would’ve helped me answer that question."
Hawkins’ two-day reign as a “Jeopardy!” winner ended on the March 27 episode.
“I knew a lot of the answers, but I couldn’t get in faster than the two guys I was playing against,” she said. “Timing on the buzzer is everything.”
Besides her speedy opponents, a difficult Bible question also challenged her in the Final Jeopardy section. Hawkins had to name the transportation company founded in 1948 that took its name from the book of Hosea. She could not think of the answer — El Al, Israel’s national airline — and neither could the other contestants. Hawkins, however, had the lowest total, so that ended her time on the show.
“Maybe if I had taken Hebrew classes at Southern I would have been able to get this question,” she said. “That was a total stumper for me.”
In 2008, Hawkins found the 50-question eligibility test online that “Jeopardy!” contestant managers use to decide who competes. Hawkins performed well enough to get an interview in Chicago, but she was not invited to be on the show. In 2011, she tried again with the same result. Finally, in 2014, her test results got her an interview in Chicago, but this time she was invited to compete on the show.
“It’s been a long process,” she said, laughing. “Three times is the charm!”
Now that Hawkins has fulfilled her childhood dream of competing on “Jeopardy!” and returned home with a substantial sum of winnings, she says the money will be put to good use.
“My husband and I are definitely committed to tithing a portion of the winnings to our local church,” she said. “Other than that, we know we want to try to take our son to Disney World in May of 2016, and we also basically look on my success on the show as God providing a way for me to finish paying for my degree at Southern.”