UW Tacoma Alum Wins Wheel of Fortune

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Charles McDonald, ‘13, walks away from the longstanding game show with $54,790 in cash and prizes.

Charles McDonald, Arts, Media and Culture '13, won the Oct. 14 episode of Wheel of Fortune, solving the puzzle "tuba player." | Photo courtesy Charles McDonaldCharles McDonald, ‘13, has watched game shows since he was a toddler.

“When I was little, I liked game shows because I like seeing people win and hearing the sound effects and seeing people get excited,” he says.

Until recently, McDonald was just a fan – but this fall, he took the wheel. On October 14, McDonald appeared on the game show Wheel of Fortune, where he won $54,790 in cash and prizes, including a trip to Hong Kong.

McDonald remained cool under pressure and triumphed over the other contestants to get to the final puzzle, which he solved correctly, completing the phrase “tuba player.” “The hardest challenge (was) overcoming the competition,” McDonald says.

He is still excited about the experience. “I (got) to enjoy something that I watched all my life,” he says.

McDonald remembers seeing contestants spinning the wheel on television and thinking to himself, “Why not me?” So McDonald auditioned in Seattle for Wheel of Fortune, where he was evaluated not just on his puzzle-solving abilities, but also his enthusiasm. McDonald, who is up-front about having Asperger’s, was happy that his syndrome did not affect his ability to appear on the show.

Once McDonald got the call saying he’d been selected, he started training. He played video game versions of Wheel of Fortune on various platforms and began analyzing the puzzles. That preparation paid off.

McDonald also would like to be on other game shows, like The Price is Right, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Let’s Make a Deal and Let’s Ask America. He recently auditioned for The Chase, a team quiz show, but wasn’t selected.

While at UW Tacoma, McDonald majored in Arts, Media and Culture. He remembers a group project he worked on for a communications class with Ellen Moore, in which the team made a commercial for Metro Parks Tacoma. The video begins with McDonald running through a park and finding a dollar, then finding more and more money, before the commercial ends with the question, “What are parks worth to you?”

McDonald is currently a landscaper and a student at Clover Park Technical College, where he is pursuing his degree in computer information technology, hoping to “expand (my) job choices,” he says. He hopes to start his own business: a game show service for parties or events.

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Written by: 
Abby Rhinehart / November 14, 2014
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu