Arts & Culture

Contestants for $500: Who is Noah Cowan?

Lifetime interest in trivia culminates in ‘Jeopardy!’ appearance for committed first-year student

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 4, 2016

Noah Cowan ’19 sports a Brown sweatshirt while posing with host Alex Trebek on the set of “Jeopardy!” Cowan’s episode airs this Friday.

Noah Cowan ’19 will go head to head Friday with some of the most eclectic minds in America’s most famous game testing obscure knowledge and buzzer-pressing reflexes — “Jeopardy!” Tackling categories ranging from “U.S. Army Five-Star Generals” and “Say it in Latin” to “That’s Just Ducky” and “Batman TV Villains,” Cowan will have the opportunity to display his mastery of miscellaneous factoids and trivia.

Cowan’s interest in trivia and “Jeopardy!” stems from an overwhelming desire to learn, he said.

“I’m a total nerd, so that helps,” he joked. “It’s really all about the pursuit of knowledge. By watching, you can test yourself and learn more about everything.”

“‘Jeopardy!’ is a celebration of knowledge,” said Maud Mandel, dean of the College. “If he’s gotten this far, it’s a testament to what he’s amassed in his life.”

Cowan said he has always been interested in trivia knowledge. “I’ve always watched ‘Jeopardy!’ and always thought it would be so cool to play,” he said. Throughout his high school career, Cowan competed in Quiz Bowl tournaments, which are contests primarily composed of academic questions. Though Quiz Bowl’s format and structure vary slightly from those of “Jeopardy!,” “lots of the knowledge overlaps,” he said. With the Quiz Bowl experience under his belt and the inspiration of fellow Georgetown Day School graduate Matt Jackson’s 13-day winning streak on screen,  Cowan had high hopes for his own triumph on “Jeopardy!”

Cowan prepared for his audition by studying the “Jeopardy!” online archives. He had his younger brother, Jared, quiz him on almost every question aired to date and help him perfect his buzz-in skills.

After preparing, Cowan confronted the tryouts process. He passed the online exam and was then invited to audition, which involved passing yet another exam on academic and popular culture categories and playing a mock game.

After winning the mock game, Cowan interviewed with the contestant producer and coordinator, Maggie Speak. “When she asked me what I’d do with the money if I won, I said I would go see ‘Hamilton,’” Speak said.

Before the taping session in Los Angeles, Cowan said he had “no idea what to expect.”

“I was confident but really, really excited,” he added. “I was going to be on ‘Jeopardy!’”

Cowan spent time with the other contestants, whom he called “the greatest group of people.” He added that since the contestants were not allowed to watch other games, the group spent a lot of time together chatting and watching movies.

“On behalf of the (Office of the) Dean of the College, we wish him tremendous success,” Mandel said. “We hope he does well for Brown and for himself.”

Correction: A previous version of this article referred to Noah Cowan’s ’19 brother as Jordan. In fact, his name is Jared. The Herald regrets the error.