Mendoza School of Business

Answer: This Mendoza alum won $25,900 on Jeopardy!

Question: Who is Double Domer Nick Heise?

Published: May 24, 2022 / Author: Bryan Fields

Maybe it was divine intervention. Or maybe the luck of the Irish. When Nick Heise (MSM ’20, ND ’19) entered Final Jeopardy! at the end of his first day competing on the gameshow Feb. 10, his correct answer to a clue about Mother Teresa earned him the victory and $25,900.

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame Master of Science in Management (MSM) program at the Mendoza College of Business, Heise defeated a three-day champion with the clue: “In 1946, she was aboard a train to Darjeeling when she heard what she later described as ‘the call within a call.’”

Heise, 25, grew up watching the show sporadically and decided to take the qualifying test in 2020 when it became more convenient because of COVID restrictions. “They started offering an online test so I thought, ‘Why not?’” he said. “I never really thought it would be possible.”

He passed the test and was invited to audition in a mock game over Zoom in spring 2021. He then was placed in a pool of candidates with no guarantee of being on the show. In October 2021, he found out he made it.

headshot“I was working from home when I got the call,” he said. “The first thing I did was tell my wife (ND graduate Hannah Ray (MGSH ’20, ND ’19). The producers want you to keep it a secret. Eventually, I told our parents.” He then flew to Culver City, California, for the Nov. 30 taping.

Some players research extensively to prepare, but Heise didn’t want to dive too deep into the trove of material available online. Rather than increase his knowledge, he tried to change his mindset.

“My wife and I would watch every day,” he said. “Rather than just shouting out answers, I practiced the timing with the buzzer, answering in the form of a question, what I would wager — just what I would do if I were actually playing the game.”

Once he stepped onto the Alex Trebek Stage at Sony Pictures Studios, Heise was surprised at how much work happens behind the scenes. He arrived early in the morning when producers do much of the setup, instructing players on the rules and studio procedures, running them through a practice game and having them tell their introductory stories. He vividly remembers watching the first couple of games from the audience while waiting for his turn as well as seeing the set and standing behind the lectern for the first time.

“I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I just wanted to take it in. I almost couldn’t believe when I won. It goes so fast, I didn’t really process it until I got home.”

Heise credits his Notre Dame education for preparing him. “I think it gave me a lot of the skills and ability to do that. My master’s program gave me the speaking skills and confidence to be on the show.”

As an undergraduate at Notre Dame, he enjoyed studying anthropology and mathematics as his majors but didn’t want to pursue a math-centered career. The Meruelo Family Center for Career Development helped him discover his interest in finance, economics and business in general. The MSM program was just what he was looking for.

Notre Dame runs in his family. Two of his uncles and several cousins are Domers. His mother attended Saint Mary’s College.

In his second Jeopardy! game, Heise unfortunately came up short, losing to Columbus, Ohio, native Dave Rapp. With his attention-grabbing purple mohawk, Rapp won several more games. In another possible coincidence, Heise learned that Rapp is also a Notre Dame alum (ND ’92). They discovered their shared collegiate experience while practicing their introductions when Heise recounted playing clarinet in the Notre Dame marching band.

“Both winning and losing were great,” Heise said. “I got to know Dave, who was also a Notre Dame graduate, so we had that in common. There’s no one I’d rather lose to.”

Heise plans to spend his winnings working on his new home in Madison, Wisconsin, where he lives with Ray. She currently attends medical school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Heise works as a technical services engineer at Epic Systems in Verona, where he helps customers get the most from the company’s medical records software.

Looking back at his Jeopardy! victory, does Heise think his winning clue about Mother Teresa was chance, or something more?

“I didn’t think about it at the time since I was so focused on coming up with the answer,” he said. “That 30 seconds of Final Jeopardy! goes so fast. Afterward, I definitely felt like it was such a cool, happy coincidence — to talk about Notre Dame on the show, to meet another Notre Dame grad at my taping day, and then to win the whole game on a Mother Teresa question!”