The coolest man in Winthrop today is Kelly Donohue.
Donohue, a lifelong resident, took Jeopardy! by storm while compiling a streak of three impressive victories on America’s preeminent quiz show. Donahue won $80,000 as a three-time champion and helped raised more than $100,000 for charity.
Donohue played the game with confidence and fearlessness, an unbeatable combination that allowed the 35-year-old state bank examiner to topple a defending champion in a thrilling three-way battle last Thursday and to continue his reign as Jeopardy! champion for three consecutive nights.
And Donohue became an instant celebrity, his nightly Jeopardy! triumphs being enjoyed by friends, colleagues, fellow alumni at Boston College (where he graduated in 2007), and millions of Jeopardy fans worldwide. Monday night, Donohue was joined by his local supporters during a watch party at the Pleasant Park Yacht Club. They cheered as he won his third game and moved on in his memorable journey.
A Lifelong Dream to Appear on Jeopardy!
Dohonue has been a Jeopardy! fan for many years, watching the nightly show that was hosted by the legendary Alex Trebek. It had been a long-time dream to be a contestant on the show.
“I first tried out to be on College Jeopardy!” said Donohue. “I passed the test and had an audition, but I didn’t get picked,” said Donohue.
He took the Jeopardy! online test in 2019 and “they called me a few months later and invited me to be on the show.”
He was supposed to travel to California for the show in March, 2020, but his appearance was canceled due to COVID-19.
“I thought my dream had ended,” said Donohue. “But I got called back in January and they told me that I had to be in California in February to tape Jeopardy! and I said, ‘absolutely.’
Knowledge is Power
On the Jeopardy! fan Website, Donohue’s game-playing style was lauded for being old-school and all business. The holder of a degree in Finance from BC, Donohue wore a nifty, blue business suit on the show.
He showed a superior knowledge in several categories – history, movies, television, pop culture, to name a few – and made a gutsy decision on the Daily Double to wage $5,000. The category was “Premiere Television Episodes” and Donohue’s correct answer was: “What Is Antiques Road Show?”
“I figured I watch more television than any human should, so I figured I had a pretty good shot at it,” said Donohue. “I saw the scores, I figured the whole game comes down to Daily Doubles, so let’s play to win.”
He then again demonstrated his versatility with the correct response to a Continental Geography question in Final Jeopardy.
Enjoying the Jeopardy! Experience
Under normal circumstances, Donohoe would have been able to bring six guests to the taping of the show. Because of COVID-19, he was not allowed to have any of his guests in the studio audience.
“They had very strict COVID-19 protocols,” said Donohue.
He had the opportunity to chat with guest host Anderson Cooper of CNN fame during the rehearsals for the show.
“After the game as well, I talked to Anderson Cooper, and mostly the conversation was about how much we love Jeopardy! and how great Alex Trebek was,” said Donohue.
He was also unable to meet Jeopardy! long-time announcer Johnny Gilbert because he recorded the introductions away from the studio.
The Pride of Winthrop
Donohue now joins Olympic hockey captain Mike Eruzione, Boston Pride captain and MVP Jillian Dempsey, former BU and Boston Bruin Dale Dunbar, NBA player Terry Driscoll, Major League Baseball pitcher Larry Thomas, NCAA basketball champion Courtney Finn, Division 1 three-sport athlete Vinnie Eruzione and other well-known Winthropites who have made their mark in major competitions.
Donohue, son of Kevin and Paula Donohue, grew up on Point Shirley before moving to Cottage Park Road. He attended the Willis Elementary School and Winthrop Middle School.
“Mr. [Arthur] Cummings was the principal and when I got to the fourth grade, he had retired and Mr. [William] Gorman became the principal, so interestingly the two elementary schools are named after my principals,” said Donohue.
He went on to attend Boston College High School and Boston College and has been a bank examiner for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for 13 years.
He and his wife, Jill, have three children, Julia, 4, Lily, 2, and Kevin, six months.
“Julia saw me on TV and said, ‘that’s Daddy.”
Donohue will be most remembered for his confident, straight-on style and sartorial splendor during his appearance on four Jeopardy! shows. “There’s no other way to play,” he said. “You have to play to win or else what are you doing there?”