Maybe it was the “extra spark.” Or it could be his a cappella-cultivated charisma. Or perhaps it was knowing the easternmost Great Lake.
Whatever it was, it worked. Robby Schrum ’05, a Silliman College Classics major who sings with the Baker’s Dozen, beat out over 1,000 Yalies this week to represent the University in next month’s “JEOPARDY!” College Championship. With a home court advantage, Schrum will face 15 contestants from colleges nationwide on the show, which will be taped Oct. 3 and 4 at the Lanman Center in Payne Whitney Gymnasium. If he wins, he will receive a Volvo, a specially designed trophy and a cash prize of at least $50,000.
Schrum began his quest for the “JEOPARDY!” spot like hundreds of other Yalies — taking a written test in a tent on Beinecke Plaza Tuesday. About 150 students passed on to a second round of written exams, before the group was whittled down to about 40 finalists, who participated in a mock game in front of judges.
The finalists gathered for the announcement in Commons Wednesday morning. Many, like Schrum, wore Yale gear.
After his name was announced, Schrum joined the “JEOPARDY! “staff for pictures and interviews.
“I was incredibly surprised,” Schrum said. “I came in here rather groggy and tired — When they called my name I just truly, honestly couldn’t believe it.”
Schrum said he watches the show when he can.
“I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard watcher,” Schrum said. “[But] I can’t help but play along when I’m watching.”
Schrum said all the finalists he saw seemed to know most of the answers during the mock game. He said he thinks judges made the final decision based on charisma and character, traits he has cultivated while acting and singing with his a cappella group.
“JEOPARDY!” contestant coordinator Maggie Speak, who conducted interviews with all the finalists, said choosing one student out of the final 40 was difficult.
“[Yale] should be very proud of the people going here,” she said. “It was a really tough choice.”
But Speak said she is confident in picking Schrum to represent Yale.
“There was just a little extra spark Robbie had,” Speak said. “He’s a very good player and he had a lot of fun playing the game.”
Schrum will compete against students from schools such as Rice, Purdue, Wake Forest and Harvard universities. Harvard auditions will be conducted today.
Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said the administration is excited about the upcoming show.
“It provides wonderful exposure to Yale and to New Haven,” Klasky said. “Moreover, it is estimated to have direct economic benefits to New Haven [totalling] about $2 million.”
This year will be the first time “JEOPARDY!” is filmed on an Ivy League campus.
Klasky praised the students who auditioned for the show.
“We are especially proud of all the Yale students who braved yesterday’s storm, proving both their physical fortitude and intellectual mettle,” she said in an e-mail.