Dr. Gary Hollis stands on Jeopardy set
By Roanoke College News

Dr. Gary Hollis competes on JEOPARDY!

Dec. 3 UPDATE: Watch party on campus

What is a good time to be had by all? A Jeopardy! Watch Party, of course. Please join Dr. Gary Hollis and friends to view his competition in the JEOPARDY! Professors Tournament. Dr. Hollis appears the first night of the tournament, Monday, Dec. 6. A watch party has been organized Monday evening in the Wortmann Ballroom in the Colket Center. Light refreshments will be provided. The event will kick off at 6 p.m. with a trivia event hosted by Roanoke’s Quiz Bowl team.  In brief rounds, student teams will match wits with other partygoers. Groups will rotate in and out so that everyone who wants to play can be accommodated. You can come and play; you can come and watch; you can come and eat, drink, and socialize. Space may be limited due to capacity of the ballroom.

At 7 p.m. Dr. Hollis will tell a few stories and share a bit about his experiences on the show. Then, we’ll tune in and watch as he competes on Jeopardy! at 7:30 p.m. If you can’t attend, you can also hear Dr. Hollis talk about this experience via Facebook Live. Visit the Roanoke College Facebook page where we plan to go live with Dr. Hollis at 7 p.m. prior to the show.

Locally, Jeopardy! airs at 7:30 p.m. on WDBJ7, the local CBS affiliate. Good luck, Dr. Hollis!

Dr. Gary Hollis, professor of chemistry, will compete with professors across the country on the first-ever JEOPARDY! Professors Tournament. Hosted by Mayim Bialik, the tournament begins on Monday, Dec. 6 and continues through Friday, Dec. 17.  

Hollis realizes a lifelong dream with the appearance on the JEOPARDY! stage.  

“I have been trying out for JEOPARDY! since my undergrad days,” Hollis said.  

The process of trying out involves taking a test to qualify for in-person audition, then taking a verification test and playing several rounds of JEOPARDY! with others in the audition. Then the contestants are typically told they will be in the pool of potential contestants for 18 months.  

“That has happened to me five or six times over the years,” Hollis said, but he was never called to appear on the real JEOPARDY! stage, until now.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, JEOPARDY! announced a college professor tournament and encouraged professors to apply. So once again, Hollis took the test. Then he took a monitored test via ZOOM and then was soon invited for a ZOOM interview. With 15 others, he joined the ZOOM and played JEOPARDY! in groups of three.  

“They want to see that candidates know the information but also see if they can keep the momentum going, handle the buzzer, and perform on the show,” Hollis said.  

At the end of the ZOOM interview, they said “we may or may not call you but you’re in our pool now.”  

“I was in Quiz Bowl practice,” Hollis said, “and noticed an email from a producer at JEOPARDY! He asked if I could call and talk. So I stepped outside and called him and he said, ‘We’d like to invite you to be on the first-ever Professors Tournament.’” 

“I was excited,” Hollis said. “I am going to be on JEOPARDY!”  


“I have been trying out for JEOPARDY! since my undergrad days.”

Dr. Gary Hollis, professor of chemistry

Hollis had already planned to go to Disney World in Orlando, Florida for fall break. At the end of that trip, instead of flying home, he flew to Los Angeles for the JEOPARDY! filming.  

The 15 professors arrived on a Sunday, met at the studios for makeup and wardrobe, did some interviews and played partial games as practice on the stage and with the buzzers.  

They also met with JEOPARDY! host Mayim Bialik. She’s fairly new to the JEOPARDY! host role.  Bialik starred in the NBC sitcom Blossom and was one of the stars in CBS’ The Big Bang Theory where she played Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler.  

“She is charming,” Hollis said. “On TV she is positive and upbeat and she’s like that in person too.”  

“It was an unbelievable thrill to see so many brilliant professors from all kinds of schools and backgrounds come together on the JEOPARDY! stage,” Bialik said in a JEOPARDY! announcement. “There was a sense of kinship and academic camaraderie among the group, along with a healthy dose of competitiveness. That energy made this inaugural Professors Tournament incredibly special.” 

The next two days, the entire tournament was filmed, five episodes each day. Monday was the quarterfinals and Tuesday they filmed the semifinals and finals. Hollis appears in the first episode, Monday, Dec. 6 where he takes on Hester Blum from Penn State and Gautam Hans from Vanderbilt Law School. Of course, Hollis isn’t allowed to say how he did in the tournament (and we pressed him pretty hard).  

“I’m going to follow their rules,” Hollis said. “You’ll just have to watch like everyone else.”  

A campus watch party is being organized. The JEOPARDY! Professors Tournament begins on Monday, Dec. 6. Tune in and see how he does. JEOPARDY! airs on WDBJ7 at 7:30 p.m. Check your local listings if you are outside the Roanoke Valley.