Ken Jennings

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Mormon Ken Jennings, quiz show winnings record-holder

Ken Jennings was (as of December 2009) the record-holder for the most TV quiz show winnings. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes casually called the Mormon Church).

Kenneth Wayne "Ken" Jennings III was born May 23, 1974, in Edmonds, Washington. Jennings grew up in Seoul, South Korea (1981–1992) and Singapore (1992–1996), where his father worked for an international law firm and then as Asia Pacific Division Counsel of Oracle Corporation. He mentions on his website that he watched Jeopardy! every afternoon after school on the Armed Forces Network. Jennings attended the University of Washington during his freshman year of college and then graduated with a degree in Computer Science and English from Brigham Young University, where he played on the school's quizbowl team for three and a half years. He graduated from Seoul Foreign School where he completed an International Baccalaureate diploma, and achieved honors at Brigham Young. He served a two-year mission for the Church in Madrid, Spain from 1993 to 1995.

Of his mission, he said “I had the best time on my mission. . . . It was one of those experiences that’s so dense and intense that you can’t really believe how much happened in such a short time. Even the hard or dull times have acquired a rosy, nostalgic glow in hindsight, just because of how valuable the whole experience was to me.” He added, "What I took home from my mission was an increased love for and testimony of the Book of Mormon. I also find it harder to take the Book of Mormon for granted after watching how quickly it can surprise and change the lives of people.”[1]

He now lives in Seattle, Washington, D.C., and is married to the former Mindy Boam. They have two children.

Jeopardy!

During his Jeopardy! winning streak, Jennings was a software engineer for CHG Healthcare, a healthcare-placement firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. He writes questions for, edits the literature and mythology categories of questions of, and is otherwise active in the National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT), a quiz bowl organization; in particular, he moderated (i.e., read questions) at the 2005, 2006, and 2009 NAQT National High School Tournaments in Chicago.

Jennings holds the record for the longest winning streak on the U.S. syndicated game show Jeopardy! and, as of October 10, 2008, once again became the all-time leading money winner on American game shows. [2] In 2004, he won 74 Jeopardy! games before he was defeated on his 75th appearance. The length of Jennings's Jeopardy! run (by airing) totaled 182 calendar days, including his first and last appearances. The TV show's ratings increased considerably during this run. His total earnings on Jeopardy! were US $3,022,700. Jennings has appeared on other TV quiz shows, adding to his earnings and making him the record holder, at a total of US $3,623,414.29. He has also been a guest on various talk shows.

Noted on his web page:

The streak made Ken Jennings a 2004 TV folk hero, and he appeared as a guest on shows from The Tonight Show and The Late Show with David Letterman to Live with Regis and Kelly and Sesame Street. Barbara Walters named him one of the ten most fascinating people of the year. The Christian Science Monitor called him "the king of Trivia Nation" and Slate magazine dubbed him "the Michael Jordan of trivia, the Seabiscuit of geekdom." ESPN: The Magazine called him "smarmy (and) punchable," with "the personality of a hall monitor," thus continuing America's long national struggle between jocks and nerds.[3]

When asked what he intended to do with his streak winnings, Jennings said that he intended to tithe ten percent to his church, donate to public television and National Public Radio, go on a trip to Europe, and invest the rest for his family. H&R Block offered Jennings free tax planning and financial services for the rest of his life.[4]

Jennings has written two bestselling books: Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, published in 2006;Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac: 8,888 Questions in 365 Days, a compilation of trivia questions - with 3 categories and about 20 questions per day of the year; Maphead, about his lifelong love of geography; and Because I Said So!, debunking parenting cliches. Jennings also has had a column in Mental Floss magazine called "Six Degrees of Ken Jennings", in which readers submit two wildly different things and he has to connect them in exactly six moves, much in the same vein as the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game.

Jennings’ success has resulted in him being a popular individual amongst corporations looking for public endorsers. He has appeared for Microsoft, Cingular Wireless, Allstate Insurance, and others.

Jennings appeared on Jeopardy! again in February 2011. An IBM computing system named “Watson” competed against the show’s two most successful and celebrated contestants—Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. "Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, was built by a team of IBM scientists who set out to accomplish a grand challenge – build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence." [5] Watson won the competition, winning $1 million for two charities. Jennings placed second and Rutter third, winning $300,000 and $200,000 respectively. Jennings and Rutter donated half of their winnings to charity.

Jennings returned to Jeopardy! in May 2014 to participate in the Battle of the Decades. He finished in second place behind Brad Rutter and won $100,000. That brought his winnings from Jeopardy! to $3,270,700.

Jennings revealed a new board game in 2019 that he and Richard Garfield, creator of the fantasy card game "Magic: The Gathering," collaborated on. To create the game they launched a Kickstarter goal of $10,000, which they exceeded. The game, "Half Truth," is a “party game that makes you feel smart.” The game includes 500 trivia questions, each of which includes six potential answers — but only three are correct.[6]