June 16, 2014

Local professor wins on 'Jeopardy!'

Andrea West, an English composition teacher at Midlands Tech, won more than $21,000 Monday on "Jeopardy!"

Andrea Prospero West would be a great poker player. On Monday, her voice had no excitement or special inflection when she said she planned to gather with a few friends Monday night to watch her first appearance on “Jeopardy!”

She couldn’t tell anyone whether she would win, and how she didn’t wasn’t clear in her demeanor. But win she did, and Tuesday the English teacher at Midlands Tech was joyfully accepting congratulations while still putting on the poker face about her “Jeopardy!” future.

West and her husband, Aaron, watched the show with friends at Sulley’s Bar & Grill in Columbia, where their group vied for attention with the U.S. team’s dramatic World Cup victory over Ghana. The loudest cheers of the night came when John Brooks scored to put the U.S. up 2-1, and when West came from behind in the Final Jeopardy round thanks to boldly wagering $10,000 of her $11,800.

The category was “Word Origins,” and the answer was “This noun meaning secret plan comes from the Latin to breathe together.” All three contestants correctly responded “What is conspiracy?”

But the leader bid only $5,000 of the $13,000 she had built to that point. West earned $21,800 and the right to call herself a “Jeopardy!” champion.

“Even though I filmed it months ago, I really can’t believe it,” West said.

She was having trouble getting much work done Tuesday, fielding congratulatory phone calls, emails and social media messages. Traditional media outlets in Buffalo, N.Y., Charleston and Columbia claimed the new “Jeopardy!” champion as one of their own. West spent her childhood in Upstate New York, graduated from Summerville High School after her family moved to South Carolina, and came to Columbia to attend the South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina.

She earned an undergraduate degrees in French and German and a master’s in linguistics. One other group claimed her on Twitter: Phi Beta Kappa.

West said she plans to “just watch from home tonight. Last night wore me out.” As for her “Jeopardy!” future, she put on the poker face, saying only, “I’m enjoying it while it lasts.”

“Jeopardy!” airs at 7:30 p.m. on WOLO-25.

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