BY JAMES RESTIVO
Daily News Writer
Published April 10, 2001
University alum and Ann Arbor resident Kevin Olmstead made television history last night with his "final answer" that gave him the largest game show payout ever $2.18 million from ABC"s popular "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."
Olmstead, a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy and assistant to the University of Michigan"s quiz bowl team, was able to answer that Igor Sikorsky invented the first mass-produced helicopter to obtain the huge payout.
He reached the "hot seat" on last"s Friday episode but only had a chance to reach the $200 level before the show ended. He used the last of his three "lifelines" on the $250,000 question.
Last night"s episode was actually taped last week in New York, but Olmstead kept quiet about his win, unplugging his telephone and left town until after the show aired.
The show"s last million-dollar payout occurred in July and was awarded to David Goodman, another University alum and friend of Olmstead. Since then, for each show that did not have a winner, ABC added $10,000 to the pot with Olmstead"s victory coming on the 118th episode since. Host Regis Philbin allowed Goodman to call into the show to wish his friend luck, adding, "Go blue!"
Olmstead, 42, is not married and he brought his mother on the show with him. He holds a doctorate in environmental engineering from the University of Michigan, as well as chemical engineering degrees from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In addition to teaching civil engineering at Detroit Mercy, he is also a senior project engineer at Tetra Tech MPS in Ann Arbor and works with the Michigan Academic Competitions team here at the University. He also co-founded a company that provides questions for quiz bowl competitions.
Paul Litvak, an LSA junior and external director of MAC, said he was very excited to see one of the team"s managers on the show.
"It"s great if anyone deserves the money, it"s him," Litvak said. "He is very kind, intelligent and entertaining at times."
Olmstead, a quiz-show fanatic, was also a three-time winner on "Jeopardy!" in 1994, taking away close to $27,000.
Susan Franklin, communications director of Tetra Tech MPS, said Olmstead is a pleasure to work with and very intelligent.
"Kevin is a wonderful person very talkative," Franklin said. "He"s down-to-earth and very smart."
Franklin added that despite his intelligence, Olmstead is very likable.
"Even though he is extremely intelligent, when you talk to him, he isn"t talking down to you," Franklin said.
Though taxes will trim down his winnings, Olmstead still looks to walk away with about $1.3 million.
Gary Lichtman, media relations director at Detroit Mercy, said Olmstead is one of the university"s most popular professors and money will most likely not change him.
"He"s never been motivated by money," Lichtman said. "He will probably do exactly what he"s doing because he"s a real person and does not have an ego."