The taping occurred over one weekend, March 21-22 at Zellerbach Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus, which coincided conveniently with the end of Harvey Mudd's spring break. Rif's friends and family immediately began making arrangements to attend the taping. Over 80 of them managed to attend the event, including approximately 45 current HMC students, 15 alums, and 2 professors. According to Alex Trebek, who answered questions during the commercial breaks, this was by far the largest number of family and personal friends to show up to support a single contestant in the history of the show. Not bad for a school of 640 students.
If all of this wasn't exciting enough, Rif topped it off by winning the entire tournament! Each of his four episodes was heartstopping -- he commented later, in reference to a bad turn in one of the matches, "that was one of many times when I thought I was dead meat." But he finished looking very alive. For winning the tournament he received $25,000 in cash, a brand new Volvo, and some amusing parting gifts such as $25 worth of frozen seafood and $25 worth of Miracle Gro spikes. In addition, the Volvo Corporation of North America donated $25,000 to Harvey Mudd College to be used for scholarships.
The scholarship money from Volvo came as a surprise both to Rif and most of his fans. Immediately after this announcement during the taping, HMC professor and math department chairman Michael Moody leaned over to Rif's classmate, fellow math major and old friend Aaron Archer, to suggest using the scholarship money to attract more top math talent. Thus, the idea of the Rif Hutchings Endowment was born. Archer decided it would be a good idea to try to augment the original $25,000 with a fund-raising drive to establish an endowment that would fund scholarships in perpetuity, instead of just a one-time scholarship. Rif liked the suggestion, so Archer made it happen.
Exactly one week after the Jeopardy! taping, Archer presented the idea to HMC President Jon Strauss, who gave him the go-ahead and kicked things off with a generous personal contribution. Shortly thereafter, Patri Forwalter-Friedman (HMC math '98), another of Rif's close friends, offered to match all donations by private individuals and triple all student donations to the fund, up to a cap of $10,000. Archer got pledges from almost every single math professor at all five of the Claremont Colleges (Harvey Mudd, Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna and Pitzer), as well as most Harvey Mudd faculty from all departments. HMC students, parents, alumni (most notably Ben Weiss, HMC math '94) and even students from other colleges also contributed.
There were two fundraisers to benefit the fund in the spring of 1998. On April 11, Friedman held a large party at East dorm that included, among other events, an Indentured Servant Auction to benefit the Rif Hutchings Endowment. About 25 people (mostly students, but also four professors, the President's son, and the Assistant Dean of Students) each offered up two hours of service to the highest bidder. The auction brought in about $1000. Members of the Harvey Mudd College community gathered in Galileo Hall to watch Rif's shows when they aired on May 7 (quarterfinal), 12 (semifinal), 14 and 15 (two-day final). On the suggestion of Professor Robert Borrelli, Archer organized a wine auction to follow the shows on May 14-15. This auction brought in $2596 from 82 bottles of donated wine.
As of April 2004, the endowment contained about $73,000.
Checks should be directed to the HMC Development Office / Kingston Hall / 301 E. 12th St. / Claremont, CA 91711. To pay by credit card, contact Liz Baughman in the Development Office (Elizabeth_Baughman@hmc.edu, (909) 607-3469) and give her the type and account number of the credit card, the name on the card, and the expiration date.
Thank you in advance for your support.
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Last modified 15 February 2000.