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Oxford alumnus Chas Nabi competes on "Jeopardy!"
Chas Nabi on Jepoardy!

— Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Chas Nabi reflects on how Oxford helped spark the intellectual curiosity that eventually landed him on "Jeopardy!".

Oxford alumnus Chas Nabi has always loved to learn new things. He captained his high school trivia team and has been the longtime anchor for his group of friends at trivia nights around town. So for Nabi 12Ox 14C, qualifying for Jeopardy! was a dream come true.

“I have always wanted to be on Jeopardy!,” he said. “I’ve had this ability to retain information, and it creates a vicious cycle: The better I am at trivia, the more I want to learn random stuff.”

When Nabi, now working in data analytics in Decatur, Ga., finally looked into how to audition, he was pleased to find that the process had changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The show used to require potential contestants to audition in one of four major cities—Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or Portland—but moved their initial screening test online for safety. He got 28 out of 30 questions correct.

That’s when it sunk in he had a real chance.

Growing up in Buffalo, New York, Nabi made his way to Oxford by recommendation of his school’s counselor. Nabi credits much of his intellectual curiosity to his time at Oxford, where a freshman class—on how different religions throughout the world approach the concept of death—introduced him to a cherished mentor: Dr. Eve Mullen, Associate Professor of Religion.

“That small decision sent out some pretty strong ripples,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was doing some of the most important things in my life at the time. But the way the ripples have gone out in the water… Oxford is the center of all that for me.”

Soon after acing the screening test, Nabi moved from one from audition to the next until he got a call from a California number. He was offered a spot on the show.

In the weeks before the competition, Nabi read James Holzhauer’s Secrets of the Buzzer in hopes of gleaning some insider knowledge from one of Jeopardy!’s most successful contestants. He took Holzhauer’s advice on buzzer strategy, but not on pre-competition breakfast.

“He recommended steak and eggs. I had chicken and waffles.”

His episode aired on December 28, 2021, when Nabi faced off against Amy Schneider, who now holds Jeopardy!’s second-longest winning streak of all time at 40 consecutive games—only behind current co-host Ken Jennings (74 consecutive wins).

“I was nervous, but the shock wears off pretty quickly,” Nabi said. “You realize this is it, and I’m going to have as much fun as I can with it.”

After a close match, Nabi said that it was an honor to lose to Schneider, who replied that her opponents were impressive: “You were both really strong,” she said on air. “It was kind of a disadvantage that you were both drawn together, because I feel like you were stealing each other sometimes.” Jennings agreed.

Nabi was excited to answer several of the competition’s prompts, but none more so than a category in the second round on East Asian history—he had taken classes on East Asian religions with Dr. Mullen and wanted to make her proud.

"Chas was always a bright and talented student, so it's no surprise to see him excelling and appearing on a show like Jeopardy!, which requires such a diverse range of knowledge," said Joe Moon, Dean of Campus Life. "I am pleased that Chas valued his Oxford experience and feels that we contributed to his success. That is how we hope to impact all students. We hope they leave here with not only a great education, but also a desire to continue learning and growing."

In addition to Mullen’s influence, Nabi remembers a class that applied critical literary theory to graphic novels taught by Brad Hawley, Senior Lecturer in English. He still reads Hawley’s comics blog to this day and attributes much of the zeal for knowledge that landed him on Jeopardy! to his two years on campus.

“That’s the thing with classes at Oxford,” he said. “Yes, you’re learning about the subject, but the professors that are teaching you are so passionate, and you’re in such an intimate environment that they really communicate ideas that hit home and end up sticking with you for a lifetime.”

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