Wash. U. professor competes on ‘Jeopardy!’

| Senior News Editor

Ayn Rand may be long dead but her words lived on to haunt one Washington University professor whose failure to recognize her maxim cost her the game on Jeopardy! Tuesday.

French assistant professor Julie Singer smoked the competition on Monday but her stint on the game show came to an abrupt end when she missed the final question on the author’s infamous objectivist novel: “A maxim of Ayn Rand was ‘Man’s ego’ is this ‘of human progress.’”

What is “The Fountainhead”?

Singer, who bet all but $200 of the $18,600 she had earned Tuesday, guessed “the measure,” costing her the lead and landing her in second place. She took home a total of $32,000—$30,000 for winning Monday’s competition and $2,000 for being a runner-up the following day.

“It was fun. It was more nerve-wrecking than I expected it to be,” Singer said. “The other contestants were really nice, and having the chance to meet them was probably the best part of the whole thing.”

Singer filmed her episodes in November after taking an online test about a year ago, interviewing in person and being selected. She hasn’t watched Jeopardy! since she was a child—nor did she watch last night’s episode—but her husband convinced her to take the test, and she scored high enough to move forward in the show.

Jeopardy! contestants are not allowed to tell people about how they fare on the show before their episodes air, but Singer said that wasn’t hard because she didn’t want people to watch. Still, she noted that she’s been contacted by college friends she hasn’t spoken with in years and one older man who found her Washington University email address and told her, “I wish I knew you 50 years ago.”

She said that while she enjoyed getting the chance to do something many people only dream about, it’s already in the past. And she was too busy to watch the episodes when they aired earlier this week.

Singer teaches 300-level French and upper-level conversational classes. She is also fluent in Italian and well-versed in Latin.

“I have classes to teach and a baby to take care of,” she said. “It’s something really fun that I did, but it’s easy not to let it take over my life because I’ve got [lots] to do right now.”

Senior Kaia Schwartz, who has taken two classes with Singer, found out about her professor’s game show appearance when a friend sent her a Snapchat picture of a rerun. She was excited to see her professor on national television.

“I never knew that she had this secret talent,” Schwartz said. “It was obvious [in class] she was very smart and I know that she knows multiple languages…but I never knew she was a trivia buff.”

“She’s a pretty humble person in general,” Schwartz added.

Senior Katie Jacobs, who has Singer as a major advisor and has taken two classes with her as well, was similarly excited by the professor’s win.

“She’s very well-liked by the French students because she’s one of the younger profs, obviously, and she’s really easy to talk to and down to earth,” Jacobs said. “It’s cool to see her doing something interesting and succeeding at it.”

Singer said she will receive her winnings in about six months.

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