Amy Schneider

On this date in 1979, “Jeopardy!” champion Amy Schneider (née Thomas E. Schneider) was born in Dayton, Ohio, to Betty Jo (Sacksteder) and James Schneider. Her mother taught math, including at the college level, and her father was a programmer for the University of Dayton and later a reference librarian.

Schneider, the first transgender contestant in “Jeopardy!” history to make the Tournament of Champions and the highest-winning woman ($1,382,800), grew up watching the show with her devoutly Catholic parents. She participated in theater in high school before majoring in civil engineering and computer science at the University of Dayton on her way to becoming a software engineer.

Schneider, later living in Oakland, Calif., tweeted: “In 2016, my father passed away, Kevin Durant joined the Warriors, my wife and I split up, I realized I was trans, and Trump got elected. It was quite a year!” (Twitter, Dec. 7, 2021) Her father died at age 68 when a vehicle hit him and the bicycle he was riding. He was also undergoing cancer treatment.

She wore a transgender flag pin on the show around Thanksgiving because she wanted to show support for the “disproportionately high number of trans people” who are estranged or cut off from their families. (Washington Post, Jan. 26, 2022) That wasn’t the case for her.

She has a tattoo on her left arm of the titular character from L. Frank Baum’s novel “Ozma of Oz.” Schneider, explaining: “When she was an infant, she was kidnapped and enchanted by an evil sorceress and raised as a boy. And then the enchantment was lifted and she was revealed to be the beautiful princess she was all along.” (New York Times, Jan. 26, 2022)

New York Times reporter Shane O’Neill: “Catholicism was very important to her family, and Ms. Schneider struggled with her faith when she was younger. She recounted one moment in 2002 when she had driven with her brother and two cousins to Toronto to see Pope John Paul II for World Youth Day. Ms. Schneider agreed to the trip in part to avoid telling her mother that she no longer considered herself Catholic.” (Ibid.)

She was defeated in her 41st appearance by Chicago librarian Rhone Talsma, who correctly answered “What is Bangladesh?” to the clue “The only nation in the world whose name in English ends with an H, it’s also one of the 10 most populous.” Schneider left her response card blank. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation