When Jenny (Thayer) Riehl ’02 ’04g (Communication Disorders) was a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune” last December, she had no idea that she would eventually win $54,505 in cash and prizes on the popular game show.
With a combination of positivity, smarts and strategy, the Town of Ulster resident closed out the win with a phrase worth $32,000 in the bonus round. She also walked away with an all-expense-paid trip to Honolulu, Hawaii.
“My first thought was one of being grateful and blessed for the win,” said Riehl. “I hadn’t really thought about the monetary outcome of the game, just solving the puzzles correctly.”
Riehl watched the February broadcast with a private viewing party of close friends and family. The celebration included a cake adorned with a wheel on top, and Riehl surprised her guests by handing out leis after the Hawaii trip was announced.
“It was an amazing night,” she said. “I was actually more nervous that day than I had been to tape the show because that’s when the reality of it all hit me.”
Though she hasn’t decided how to enjoy her windfall, Riehl said she’s already gotten a great deal out of the experience of competing on the game show.
“I feel beyond amazing and wouldn’t have changed a thing,” she said. “I feel most people have dreams that they never fulfill. This experience has taught me to listen to that inner voice more often, try some things that are out of my comfort zone, and not to be intimidated or afraid to fail.”
Riehl, a school speech language pathologist for the Red Hook School District, lives with her husband, A.J., and their rescue dog, Whitney, in Kingston, N.Y. She worked as an adjunct faculty member at SUNY New Paltz until 2011.