Showtime! Alumnus Celebrates ‘Jeopardy’ Appearance with Friends in Hoboken

7/18/2013

Answer: This young alumnus is able to cross one thing off his “bucket list’’ after appearing on a popular television game show.

Question: Who is Mike Munley?

Munley ’09 recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of appearing on “Jeopardy,’’ after trying out for the show twice before and not making it.

“I’ve watched the show since I was a little kid and I am very happy to have done it,’’ Munley said recently, weeks after his March 8, 2013, appearance aired. He finished third, winning $1,000.

He applied twice before – while a Stevens student, and previously as a student at Kearny High School in Kearny, N.J. But the third time was the charm for Munley, who now lives in Jersey City, N.J. He made it to the interview stage and flew to California in Fall 2012 for the taping.

Munley now works as a digital marketing analyst at Johnson & Johnson in Manhattan. To prepare for “Jeopardy,’’ he spent about a week brushing up on some “Jeopardy’’ favorite categories, such as U.S. Presidents, Capitols, Authors, and Famous Operas. “You only have a few seconds from the time when you hit the buzzer to when you have to answer, and I wanted to have the answer on the tip of my tongue. I wanted to know it,’’ he said. “And as a Stevens alum, I know how to cram.’’

To celebrate his appearance, about 70 family members, co-workers, friends and Stevens students gathered at a Hoboken bar to watch the program on March 8. Munley, who was unable to divulge how he did on the show until airing for fear of losing prize money, had to sweat it out for four months without spilling the beans. “It was painful to keep it a secret,’’ he said. “I wanted people to know that it happened and that I had a great time, but it was hard to not tell them how I did.’’

At the Hoboken bar with his friends, Munley took some good-natured ribbing for three wrong answers, one of which involved engineering, asking the components of making a makeshift compass with a magnetized needle, cork and water. His first incorrect response involved the number of zeros in a billion.

“I got 20 questions right, four more than my nearest competitor, and all I’ll hear about for the rest of my life is that I got the engineering question wrong,’’ he said, with a smile on his face. “But the question about the zeros in a billion was asked before the first commercial (break), and I still had some butterflies in my stomach.’’

Natalie Arndt Marone ’08 was one of Munley’s friends who watched “Jeopardy’’ that night. “I was super excited and not surprised at all (by his appearance). It was meant to be, it was one of his life’s goals,’’ she said.

Marone recalled fond memories of “homework parties’’ with Munley, as they would gather in a dorm room and quiz each other on homework in all subjects. “He was always smart,’’ she said.

John Frega ’07, a Sigma Phi Epsilon brother, met Munley through the fraternity. He admitted that he will be one of the guys teasing Munley about missing the engineering questions. “I will be ribbing him for it in the future,’’ he said with certainty. The Final Jeopardy question was about the Oscars, one subject Munley had prepped for. The question was: “This brother & sister were both nominated for 1969 Oscars: he for a screenplay, she for Best Actress; they didn’t win.’’

Munley admitted that didn’t have a clue about the answer; the other two contestants on “Jeopardy’’ also answered incorrectly. “And in my defense, at the bar, no one under the age of 40 guessed correctly,’’ he said, laughing slightly.

It’s a safe bet that this J&J analyst will never forget the correct answer, which is Peter and Jane Fonda, he for “Easy Rider’’ and she for “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’’