My smart wife

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 7, 2005

My wife, Kim, is once again going to be in USA Today! The entire nation will soon know her for being one of brightest college students in the country.

What did she do to get national recognition for her brain? She is one of five Elizabeth City State University students to finish in the &uot;Final Four&uot; of the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge, which brings the brightest people from 64 Historically Black Colleges and Universities together in Orlando, Florida in a competition similar to the NCAA basketball championship.

As a matter of fact, as the basketball championship was getting started, Kim and her teammates were in heated academic competition for another kind of national championship.

Last year, the ECSU team finished in the &uot;Sweet 16&uot;, one of its best performances since the Honda All-Star Challenge began. Remember that even though the 64 teams compete on the same stage, so to speak, not all schools are equal. Just as in the NCAA, some of the smaller schools should not even be in the championship if you just look at funding, SAT scores required to get in, etc.

ECSU making it to the Final Four in Quiz Bowl is same improbable scenario if the ECSU basketball team was in the final four of the NCAA basketball championship. It just ain’t gonna happen when you’ve got teams, like UNC-Chapel Hill, that outspend ECSU in sports by millions of dollars.

Nevertheless, Kim and her fellow team members found themselves in the Final Four against such powerhouses as Morehouse and Florida A&M. ECSU finished third in the championship, losing to Florida A&M by 20 points – which in Quiz Bowl is a &uot;one possession&uot; game. One more question right – 10-points for getting it right and getting the 20-point bonus correct – and ECSU would have been playing Morehouse for the championship.

I’m really impressed with this outstanding team from Eastern North Carolina, but it will get very little press coverage because, I know, people’s eyes start to glaze over when you talk about Quiz Bowl. I don’t know why that is. A good mental competition can be just as fun as any physical competition. Matching brains and keeping cool under enormous pressure is as impressive in Quiz Bowl or &uot;Jeopardy&uot; as matching physical prowess on the basketball court. I guess the difference is that most people understand basketball, but only a few can follow along with Quiz Bowl.

I’m just as impressed with Honda for sponsoring this tournament. It shows they really care about the communities that have given them so much business. I don’t know how much they spend on the Honda All-Star Challenge, but it has to be in the millions.

Basically, the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge showcases the intellectual skills of students by requiring them to quickly and accurately answer 10-point &uot;toss-up&uot; questions and 20-30 point bonus questions on world history, science, literature, religion, the arts, social sciences, popular culture and African-American history and culture.

Not only does Honda fly the teams to Orlando and pay for their hotel rooms at Disney World, they award more than $300,000 in grants to participating schools and give the players stipends for participating. Top name entertainers perform for the students, professors, Honda officials, and HBCU alumni.

It’s a great event, now in its 16th year, and represents a one-of-a-kind event that both promotes academic excellence and celebrates the spirit of competition. It gives the smart students a venue that celebrates intelligence, encourages sportsmanship, and allows scholars from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds together in a convivial atmosphere.

Honda Campus All-Star Challenge was established by American Honda Motor Co., Inc. in 1989. Since its inception, approximately 50,000 HBCU students have taken part in this prestigious program and nearly $3.5 million in grants have been awarded to the schools. The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) and the Association of College Unions International are partners to the program.

All of this is very impressive and very nice for my wife since Kim loves intellectual competition. She is phenomenal at Jeopardy, rarely missing an answer. I don’t know how she knows so much stuff, but knowing stuff is only half the equation. She can dredge things out of her memory that even if I knew, I would have to think about for a couple of minutes. If there were no time limit on Jeopardy, I could give her some competition (she’d beat me, but I could make it close). But with only seconds to answer, I’m no match.

But there’s something else that makes this event special to me. Sure, I’m very proud of my wife for being so good at Quiz Bowl, but she’s not the only one from this area who competed.

Kim is from St. John and a graduate of Hertford County Schools. Emerald Lucas of Rich Square is a 17-year-old senior at ECSU who will graduate by the time she’s 18 and then go on to Duke University’s medical school.

The faculty coach for the team is Derrick Wilkins of Little Washington and the other three team members don’t live far away: Jerome Gillis is a freshman from Hampton Roads, Warren Gibbs is a music industry major from Rocky Mount, and Arkeem Fleming is a public administration major from Edenton.

See, you don’t have to look far from home to find some very bright people. This team competed against some of the best minds in the nation and came home winners. Of course, they were winners before they left, but now they’ve got trophies to prove it.

It was a great team. Kim was one of the oldest students there (I’m proud of her for going back to get her degree so she can teach) and Emerald was one of the youngest, a genius from this area who will do great things with her life.

I’m proud of my wife and thought everyone would like to know that three of our own are doing great things already on the national stage. Honda recognizes these people with a full-page ad in USA Today to honor their achievements. They deserve it. And if you happen to see it, remember that the members of the third place team in this championship hail from this neck of the woods.