What is awesome? Sam Buttrey '79 wins Jeopardy!

Exeter alumnus crowned champion of the famed quiz show's first Professors Tournament.

December 18, 2021

Sam Buttrey '79 stands with Jeopardy! host Mayim Bialik after his winning run.

Sam Buttrey ’79 was as good as his correct answers Friday night.

With the flair of a French post-impressionist (who is Georges Seurat?), the power of a home run king (who is Hank Aaron?) and the knowledge of the nation’s top lawyer (who is the solicitor general?), Buttrey claimed the title of Jeopardy! champion, winning the famed quiz show’s inaugural Professors Tournament.

Buttrey, an associate professor of operations research at The Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, outlasted a field of 15 educators to claim the crown and a $100,000 prize.

The two-week tournament concluded in a two-day final involving Buttrey; Ed Hashima, a history professor; and Alissa Hove, a botany professor. Buttrey took a big lead after the first day and fended of a strong challenge from Hashima on Friday.

“This has been the greatest time, and to come out ahead of all these other great players is something I’ll remember forever,” said Buttrey. “The group was uniformly so smart, charming, and warm, and there’s been a real feeling of camaraderie from the very beginning.”

Buttrey used his customary two-fisted hold on his clicker to ring in first 26 times, with 23 correct answers across disparate categories like the history of England, percussion instruments, Latin phrases and movie taglines.

To Friday’s final challenge — “The catalog of MoMA’s first exhibition called this artist, who died in 1891 a ‘man of science’ and ‘inventor of method’” — he correctly answered Seurat, sealing the win and a spot in the show’s Tournament of Champions.