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March 21, 2023

Rowan University professor from Montgomery County seeks to continue 'Jeopardy!' winning streak

Melissa Klapper, coordinator of the South Jersey college's Women's & Gender Studies Program, won Monday's show by just $1 after giving the 'perfect wager'

TV Jeopardy
melissa klapper jeopardy Courtesy of/Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Melissa Klapper, a Rowan University professor from Montgomery County, became the new 'Jeopardy!' champion Monday when her Final Jeopardy wager placed her ahead by $1.

While watching the quintessential quiz show "Jeopardy!" is fun on its own — between trying to guess the correct responses and rooting for players to bet it all during Daily Doubles  the intensity is always heightened when there's a local contestant involved.

Melissa Klapper, a Rowan University professor from Merion Station, Montgomery County, won her first "Jeopardy!" match on Monday night, and is set to face two new competitors Tuesday evening.

During Monday's match, Klapper faced one-time champion Kelly Barry, a marketing communications specialist from Seattle, and Jake Garrett, a football coach and teacher from Trussville, Alabama. 

Klapper went into the Final Jeopardy round well in the lead with $24,400, but it was her "perfect wager," as host Ken Jennings called it, of $401 that solidified her victory. The bet placed her just $1 ahead of Garrett, who wagered his entire $12,400 pool; both contestants guessed the correct answer.

At Rowan University, located in South Jersey, Klapper is the coordinator of the Women's & Gender Studies Program as well as a history professor teaching American and women's history. Her research focuses on the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as the history of childhood, education and the American Jewish experience. She received her PhD from Rutgers University.

Klapper is also the author of multiple books, and discussed her most recent writing during contestant introductions on Monday's "Jeopardy!" 

"It's an occupational hazard of being a professor but you often have to write books," Klapper joked. "So I've written four books. I'm working on the fifth, and the most recent one is the history of ballet class in America which came about partially because I took ballet class myself for many years. And even as we speak I am standing in perfect first position behind this podium."

Klapper now joins the ranks of local "Jeopardy!" champions, like 21-time winner Cris Pannullo, of Ocean City, and 16-time winner Ryan Long, of Philadelphia. 

On Tuesday, she will face Brandon Anderson, a communications director from Columbus, and Charlotte Diffendale, a letter carrier from Albany.

Find out whether the new champ can stretch her winning streak to two games tonight at 7 p.m. when "Jeopardy!" airs on ABC. 

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