Talking History with Alex Trebek

September 22, 2015

Dylan Parson '16  of Slippery Rock, Pa. represented the Big Red for a four-day streak (winning three games) on the 32-year-old game show last month. His friends in the student entrepreneurship group Denison Enterprises knew he couldn’t do this without proper Denison paraphernalia. So they overnighted a tie to Parson’s hotel in Los Angeles before his day of filming.

“We were worried about logos so it’s just the red one with little Swaseys on it. It might not have been recognizable by the camera but now you know it’s there,” says Parson, who is active member of Denison Enterprises.

While the religion major legally couldn’t tell TheDEN about his performance on the show in advance, he was able to spill some details about the process, like the fact that there are two rounds of tests to make the TV show, one online and one in person.

If you get through both rounds, like Parson did this time (he almost made it on to Jeopardy! for college week during his first year), you’re invited to film in Los Angeles. You just have to wait for up to 18 months for a call from the producers.

Parson got the call two weeks after his in-person interview in early July. The producers told him to be there on August 26, so he jumped on a plane with his girlfriend and seven members of his family.

“It was a little bit like the Oregon Trail or something,” he laughs, recalling his band of supporters. “It’s always been a goal of mine to make it on the show, but I never thought it would be this soon.”

Back on campus, Parson '16 remained discreet about the show's outcome.

Once in the studios, Parson and the other contestants were “sequestered” in the Green Room with their phones turned off. To prevent any sharing of clues, they couldn't even make eye contact with family members or the audience when they went into the studio to film.

Contestants were, however, able to chat with Canadian native and show host Alex Trebek, who took a particular interest in the research Parson has done with History Professor Catherine Dollard ’88 on Canadian soldiers in World War I.

“[Alex] was very laid-back and interested in talking with us and answering questions. The other contestants were really cool, too. It’s a weird experience to be in a room where someone can ask an obscure question about something and everyone answers at the same time,” says Parson, who was the youngest contestant present.

After four games and three wins, Parson won $31,799 and some serious bragging rights.

Fun fact: Parson isn't the only Denisonian to make it on “Jeopardy!”. Erin Saelzer ’05 appeared on an episode this past July, and Kristin Hamilin Sausville '02 was a 5-Day Champ back in March.

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