Walker Memorial Academy Graduate and Jeopardy! Finalist Brings National Attention To Southern Adventist University
by Jeannette Zesch
Avon Park resident Hans von Walter spent eleven years as a Walker Memorial Academy (WMA) student. At the age of seven, he decided he wanted to eventually be a contestant on the television quiz show, Jeopardy!, hosted by Alex Trebek.
Recently, the dream of a child was fulfilled. Now, as a young man, Hans competed as a collegiate finalist winning $25,000 at the Jeopardy! tournament representing his school, Southern Adventist University (SAU), located near Chattanooga in Collegedale, Tennessee. As a biochemistry major at SAU, he plans a career in medicine.
Hans’ goal never was a secret on the WMA campus. His classmates and faculty openly encouraged and supported his ambition. “His enthusiasm was an inspiration to all. Everyone cheered for him,” says Principal William E. Farmer.
Hans has a history of competing in academic contests. As an eighth-grade student at WMA, he beat all competitors and became the 2004 Georgraphy Bee Florida state champion sponsored by National Geographic.
Alex Trebek, who hosts Jeopardy!, was also the host of the National Geography Bee when Hans represented Florida in Washington, D.C. They got reacquainted at the Jeopardy! finals.
In addition to his Geography Bee experience, Hans has led SAU academic teams in annual College Bowl competitions.
Judy Johnson, humanities teacher at WMA, became his mentor as he prepared for his 2004 state geography contest. She says, “Hans was a very inquisitive student; it seemed like everything about the world fascinated him. He spent endless hours learning about the world by studying various books in my classroom, practicing for the Geography Bee, talking incessantly about his dream to compete in the ‘real’ Jeopardy! and focusing intently on learning trivia. When he won the school Geography Bees and the state level bee, I knew he was destined for great things.”
Recent Study Reveals Benefits of Adventist Christian Education
“Our four-year independently financed study showed that students in the Adventist schools outperformed their peers at the national average in every subject area. The Adventist Church runs a Christian school system second only in size to the Roman Catholic parochial schools.”
—Quoted from “For real education reform, take a cue from the Adventists” in Christian Science Monitor Weekly Review of News and Ideas by Elissa Kido, November 15, 2010, Vol. 102, Issue 51