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Alumnus gives part of 'Millionaire' prize

Kevin Olmstead's 2001 win on the game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" has proven lucky for U-M's School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE).

The U-M alumnus recently gave the school a $50,000 endowment, which he says he wants to "directly support students." It will fund the Kevin Olmstead Graduate Student Research Assistantship in Sustainable Systems for graduate student work on any project in the Center for Sustainable Systems (CSS).

"Preference will be given to enrolled SNRE students who are in academic good standing pursuing a graduate degree, possess strong quantitative skills and demonstrate exceptional interest and experience in environmental sustainability," says Greg Keolian, co-director of CSS and an associate research scientist with SNRE.

Olmstead and CSS say it is likely the fellowship will be used to update a report called the "Overview of Environmental Sustainability Issues," which is used as a teaching resource. The graduate students will make sure data are up-to-date and will revamp a chapter or two in the materials each year to ensure the report will be usable in the future.

With Ph.D. and post-doctoral degrees in environmental engineering from U-M, Olmstead was able to answer an engineering trivia question on "Millionaire" about who is credited with inventing the first mass-produced helicopter. Knowing that it was Igor Sikorsky won Olmstead the $1 million jackpot. He also secured his place in game show history by winning an additional $1,180,000 that had been amassed over 118 episodes of unsuccessful "Millionaire" contestants.

After a whirlwind press tour during which he met Kelly Ripa and Diane Sawyer when he appeared on their shows, Olmstead returned to his job at Tetra Tech MPS in Ann Arbor. With no plans to leave or shorten his hours, he continues the same schedule, with the addition of a few speaking engagements.

A quiz show buff since appearing on "High School Quiz," which aired on a Toledo, Ohio, television station in the late 1970s, he has served as a coach and advisor for the Michigan Academic Competitions and its forerunner group within the University Activities Center at U-M since 1989. He is a founding member and chief financial officer of National Academic Quiz Tournaments, which produces quiz bowl and trivia questions for high schools, colleges and other clients. His other game show appearances include a stint on "Jeopardy!" in 1994, during which he won $27,000 in cash and prizes.

The 2001 win was not Olmstead's first encounter with "Who Wants to be A Millionaire." He also coached past contestant David Goodman, the last "Millionaire" winner before Olmstead.

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