Photo: Courtesy Sean McShane

Sean McShane '19 is Wicked Smart

The BC alum recently won more than $82,000 on Jeopardy!

Sean McShane ’19 did Boston College proud last year, winning three games of the legendary trivia show Jeopardy! “It runs in my family,” McShane said. “I had a cousin who was on the show. We have that type of mind where we hear a fact and we never forget it.” McShane, who works for a Boston nonprofit, joked that he wouldn’t have needed to go on the show in the first place if he had a dollar for every time someone asked him how he knew a piece of trivia. So, how do you win at Jeopardy! three times? To find out, we asked McShane to explain how he came up with the correct “questions” to three fairly obscure “answers.”

Jeopardy answer panel stating: Only three presidents have married while  in office—John Tyler was the first, and he was the last

Question: Who Is Woodrow Wilson 
McShane had a month to prepare before his appearance, so he focused on subjects he knew the show likes, such as geography, state capitals, Shakespeare—and US presidents. “I spent one day getting broad strokes on the presidents, like what order they were in,” McShane said. He also noted whenever a president had more than one first lady, which prepared him for the Wilson question.

Jeopardy answer panel stating: Many Brits put an “intrusive” one between words that end with a vowel sound and words that start with one

Question: What Is “R”
One way to prep for the show? Simply rely on your BC education. “I learned that fact because we talked about it in the general linguistics class that I took my senior year,” McShane explained. The class was a favorite, and while the professor didn’t call the R “intrusive” at the time, McShane remembered that others did. The Brits aren’t the only ones who use the R—Bostonians famously do as well.

Jeopardy answer panel stating: The recovered violin here was bandleader Wallace Hartley’s; his troupe performed this fitting 1841 hymn as the Titanic sank

Question: What Is “Nearer, My God, to Thee”
McShane knew this one simply because he’s a Titanic buff. “I became just fascinated with it,” he said. “I read multiple books as an eight-year-old kid.” Chief among them was one that offered answers to nine hundred questions about the famous sinking. “I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ going down on the Titanic,” he said.

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