Staff member qualifies for popular TV game show


A University staff member has qualified as one of the pool of contestant hopefuls for a chance to appear on the popular TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Jennifer Wesson-Howes, a part-time employee with physical plant and a Level III McMaster student, correctly answered the five telephone-qualifying questions on her third try. “I was really lucky,” she says, adding that she did no research in preparation for the contest.

Why did she call? “My kids are huge fans of the show and were always frustrated that Canadians couldn't call in,” she explains. When the special Canadian version of the show was announced, they pestered her to give it a try.

“Heck, it's a chance to embarrass myself in front of millions,” she laughs.

Each question has four items which have to be put into a certain order, such as chronological or alphabetical, she explains. For example, on her third try she was asked to place the railroads that appear in the game of Monopoly into correct order, starting from GO. Callers, who were restricted to one try per day, paid $2 each time to answer the series of questions.

The secret of her success (to date)? “I have a huge breadth of knowledge – no depth, mind you – of the mundane and the arcane,” she jokes.

Wesson-Howes joins about 4,000 qualifying Canadians who now have to wait until 3 p.m. on Monday, August 28 to find out if they will be one of the 10 who will appear on the taped TV show in New York in September. Of the 10 names drawn (plus two spares), four will be from Ontario.

Editor's note: When we posted this story this morning we wondered whether we would get calls from others on campus who have qualified for the show.

We've since learned that Dale Stevens, research grants accountant in the Faculty of Health Sciences, has also qualified. Dale, a big trivia buff, succeeded on his fifth try. The sports trivia enthusiast says he was initially disappointed that none of the questions he had to answer were about sports.

Then came the fifth question on his fifth try. And, as luck would have it, it was a sports question. He was asked to put the names of the following NHL players in the order in which they won the Hart Trophy. The answers, which Stevens knew and got correct, were: 1. Gordie Howe 2. Bobby Orr 3. Wayne Gretzky and 4. Eric Lindros.

“I got kind of lucky with that one; it was relatively easy to answer. They could have made it more difficult by asking for consecutive Hart trophy winners.”

Stevens plans to be at home next Monday, waiting by the telephone between 12 and 3 p.m., when contestants who make the final selection are notified.

It's a call he doesn't want to miss, given how tough it has been to qualify. “I'm hopeful, but not optimistic. If it happens, it happens,” says Stevens who, with his wife, watches the show every night.