UWM grad student’s “Jeopardy!” appearance is a dream come true

When the call came that he’d been waiting for all his life, Avinash Rajendra missed it. But when he saw who his voicemail was from – producers of the game show “Jeopardy!” – he knew his dream was finally coming true.

UWM engineering graduate student Avinash Rejendra (right) stands on the set of “Jeopardy!” with host Ken Jennings. (Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions)

His journey to competing on the pinnacle of trivia shows, as he calls it, was months in the making.

Rajendra, a PhD student in engineering at UWM, started watching “Jeopardy!” in high school. Over the years, he’d auditioned for the trivia show’s teen and college tournaments but didn’t make it.

When the pandemic moved the testing process online, he decided to try again last spring. Rajendra completed his audition — a preliminary quiz followed by two rounds of tests over Zoom. Then all he could do was wait.

“I always wanted to go on the show,” Rajendra said. “I watched the show with the idea that one day I’ll make it on there and that day was coming up.”

Persistance pays off

His persistence and love of trivia paid off, and he arrived at the “Jeopardy!” studio to compete in November. Rajendra’s episode aired on Jan. 21.

Rajendra finished with $2,399, but only the first-place finisher gets to keep their winnings. Second-place finishers take home $2,000; third place takes $1,000.

The hardest part of the competing was being the first one to the buzzer, Rajendra said. His lifelong love of trivia and learning about the world prepared him for the rest.

Second place finish

He came in second to returning champion Amy Schneider, who had a 37-day winning streak as of the episode. Her long run as champion finally ended a few days later at 40 games, placing her second in Jeopardy history behind the 74-game run of Ken Jennings, who hosted the show on which Rajendra appeared.

Even though he didn’t win, Rajendra enjoyed the experience. It was a lifelong dream and a sign of personal growth, he said.

“I grew up with stage fright, so it’s nice I could turn around and stand on literal stage in front of a national audience,” Rajendra said. “It’s still a once in a lifetime experience, and it was a bucket list item for me.”

Top Stories