You obviously have to be pretty bright and extremely dedicated to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But does that lead to future success?
For the most part, yes. Among the winners, there are lots of graduates of top schools and plenty of other successes. Unsurprisingly, many of them go into brainy professions, becoming doctors and lawyers. One even became a prominent journalist and was part of a newspaper team that won a Pulitzer Prize.
Max Nisen contributed to a previous version of this post.
Frank Neuhauser won the very first spelling bee with the word “Gladiolus” and was a patent lawyer at GE and Bernard Rothwell & Brown. He lived to age 97.
- Neuhauser and his wife.
Neuhauser passed away in 2011. He was just 11 years old when he won the very first spelling bee 1925.
He went on to attend the University of Louisville and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. While working at General Electric, the company offered to send him to law school, so he attended George Washington University and had a long, successful career as a patent lawyer after obtaining his law degree in 1940.
1969 winner Susan Yoachum was a journalist and part of a San Jose Mercury News team that won a Pulitzer in 1989. She later became political editor of The San Francisco Chronicle.
- Susan Yoachum on C-Span.
After winning the competition and inspiring a surge of Dallas students to sign up for the spelling bee, Yoachum grew up and attended Southern Methodist University, going on to become a respected journalist. She was even part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team of reporters in 1990.
Yoachum passed away in 1998 at the age of 43 from breast cancer.
Jonathan Knisely won in 1971 with the word “shaloon,” and is now a doctor and faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
According to Knisley’s LinkedIn, he has been at the Cornell teaching hospital since June 2017. He works in the oncology department.
After winning the bee, he attended Yale University for undergrad then the University of Pennsylvania for medical school – not too shabby.
1973 winner Barrie Trinkle went to MIT, spent more than a decade at NASA’s Jet Propulsion lab, and worked as an editor at Amazon.
Trinkle was an aerospace engineer for a decade, according to Vox. Then she pivoted towards writing and editing.
“It’s been interesting. I became an aerospace engineer for a while, but then I did go back to words, becoming an editor and writer, and that’s been my life for the past 15 years. It’s almost like I tried to get away from words, and they pulled me back,” she said.
Trinkle also wrote a book, “How to Spell Like a Champ,” and is a consultant to the Spelling Bee.
Bailly, the 1980 winner, is an associate professor of Classics at the University of Vermont and the bee’s official pronouncer.
Bailly returned to Scripps in an official capacity in 1990 as an associate pronouncer.
“That job is basically just making sure that everything the pronouncer says is right,” he told Time. He became the official pronouncer in 2003, and has held the title ever since.
Bailly even appeared in “Akeelah and the Bee,” a movie about an unlikely spelling bee contestant, Akeelah, played by Keke Palmer.
Besides the bee, he’s also an associate professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Vermont. Bailly holds a doctorate from Cornell University in ancient philosophy.
1981 winner Paige Pipkin was runner-up to Jacques Bailly in 1980. She couldn’t shake the spelling bee; she currently serves as its executive director.
Pipkin, who now goes by her married name, Paige Kimble, started working for the E.W. Scripps Company in 1991 after graduating from the Midwestern State University, according to her LinkedIn page.
She was promoted to Executive Director of the Bee in 2013, a position she still holds.
1988 champion Rageshree Ramachandran started studying at Stanford at age 16, and is now an associate professor of pathology and director at the University of California, San Francisco’s medical school.
- This is what the spelling bee looks like today.
- flickr: Scripps National Spelling Bee
Ramachandran holds both an MD and a Ph.D. Not surprising – she finished high school in three years and started college at 16 after winning a $10,000 Westinghouse Science Talent Search scholarship.
1989 winner Scott Isaacs is now a spelling coach and academic director of the Spelling Bee of China.
After two degrees and a stint as a chiropractor, Isaacs has returned to the field of spelling. According to his LinkedIn, Isaacs starting coaching students in spelling in 2011.
“I now coach an average of 10 students per year in advanced preparation for spelling bees,” he wrote.
In 2015, he also became the vice chairman and academic director of the Spelling Bee of China, helping design spelling resources for Chinese students who want to participate in English spelling bees.
1992 winner Amanda Goad went to Harvard Law School and now works as an LGBTQ rights attorney and director of the LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project for the ACLU.
In additon to winning the Spelling Bee, Goad also earned a perfect score on the SATs and won the “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament.
Goad now lives in the Los Angeles area and works for the ACLU of Southern California as an LGBTQ rights attorney and the Audrey Irmas director of the LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project, according to LinkedIn. She also has served on the board of directors of the Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network since 2015.
Wendy Guey, the 1996 winner, is a public school teacher in Boston.
- Wendy Guey is congratulated by her mother, Suju, after winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 1996.
- Travis HEYING/AFP/Getty Images
After her 1996 win, Guey graduated as valedictorian of her high school in 2001. She went on to attend Harvard and obtained a degree in economics – but it wasn’t her passion.
“I didn’t feel personally fulfilled from it,” she told the Palm Beach Post. Guey became a full-time teacher in 2008 and remained in Boston, Massachusetts.
Rebecca Sealfon, the 1997 winner, remembered for screaming each letter of her last word, is the founder and CEO of ResearchMatch, a startup that helps professors and students collaborate.
- Sealfon celebrating her win.
- Reuters/Rich Wilkin
Sealfon graduated from Columbia University in 2012 with a Masters in Computer Science, according to LinkedIn. She also founded the non-profit ResearchMatch, which matches professors who have research projects with undergraduate students looking to join.
Sealfon began teaching at Byte Academy, a coding bootcamp, in 2019 as a principal instructor of data science.
Jody-Anne Maxwell, the first Jamaican winner of the bee in 1998, earned her law degree in 2018.
- Maxwell jumping for joy.
- Reuters/Mike Theiler
Maxwell earned her law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law in Illinois. She’s currently an associate at a Chicago law firm, as of May 2019.
1999 winner Nupur Lala was a star of the 2002 documentary “Spellbound,” spent time as a brain researcher at MIT, and plans to enter medical school.
“Spellbound” is a documentary that follows the 1999 Scripps Spelling Bee, so, of course, Lala is the star.
Lala graduated from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 2018 having studied medicine. Before that she worked at a cognitive neuroscience lab at MIT.
George Thampy, the 2000 winner, graduated Harvard in 2010 and obtained an MBA from Stanford in 2017.
- Thampy after winning the competition.
According to LinkedIn, Thampy currently lives in the San Francisco area and is a healthcare investment banker, which he’s been since November 2018.
After his win, he attended Harvard and majored in chemistry, health policy, and Russian studies, an eclectic mix. Thampy graduated in 2010 and five years later returned to school to pursue his MBA.
Pratyush Buddiga, the 2002 winner, was a fixture on the professional poker circuit. Now he’s involved in cryptocurrency.
- Buddiga with President George W. Bush after his win.
Buddiga was a professional poker player from 2011 to 2017, according to LinkedIn. He retired after winning over $6 million. Now he’s getting involved in cryptocurrency.
2003’s winner, Sai Gunturi, graduated from Tufts in 2011 with a degree in quantitative economics.
- Sai Gunturi is presented his trophy for winning the 76th Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee May 29, 2003.
- Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Gunturi, who was 14 when he took home the trophy, now lives in Dallas and is the head of product and technology at NectarOM, a software company, according to LinkedIn.
David Tidmarsh, the 2004 champion, now lives in Paris and is working on a graduate degree in computer science.
- Tidmarsh was a bit overwhelmed.
- Chuck Kennedy/MCT/MCT via Getty Images
Tidmarsh went on to become the salutatorian of his high school – though he admitted to IndyStar that he “only” got an A- in geometry – and continued his studies at Yale and MIT.
In 2005, Anurag Kashyap spelled “Appoggiatura” correctly to win. He went on to win the “Jeopardy!” Teen Tournament as well.
- Kashyap reacts to winning the 78th Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee on June 1, 2005.
- Mark Wilson/Getty Images
2006 winner Kerry Close graduated from Cornell University in 2014.
Close competed in the spelling bee four times before winning on her fifth attempt, which also happened to be her final year of eligibility, she told Business Insider in 2015.
In addition to her Bachelors degree in political science and government from Cornell, she obtained her Masters in business and economic reporting in 2015 from New York University. Close currently works at the public relations firm Group Gordon.
2007 National Spelling Bee winner is just one of Evan O’Dorney’s many accolades.
- Evan O’Dorney is hugged by his mother Jennifer after Evan won the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
- Alex Wong/Getty Images
O’Dorney went on to attend Harvard for college, and graduated in 2015. He then attended the University of Cambridge for a year, and then Princeton.
In addition to his spelling prowess, he won the Intel Science Talent Search, placed four times at the International Math Olympiad, and was one of the top five scorers in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition for three years in a row, according to an interview O’Dorney did with HerCampus.
He was also named a Churchill Scholar in 2015.
Sameer Mishra took home the 2008 trophy, and is now an independent contributor to the Spelling Bee.
- Sameer Mishra holds up his winning trophy in the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
- Alex Wong/Getty Images
According to his LinkedIn, Mishra graduated from Columbia University in 2016 in economics and statistics. He currently works at a private equity firm in San Francisco.
He also has been an independent contributor at the Scripps Spelling Bee since 2014.