Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey, Carleton Class of 1970, Shows the Power of a Liberal Arts Education

March 2, 2011

Representative Rush D. Holt of New Jersey, a 1970 graduate of Carleton, recently beat out "Watson," the IBM supercomputer that cleaned up on television's "Jeopardy!," in a heated battle of wits recently held in Washington, D.C. According to the Los Angeles Times, "The faux 'Jeopardy!' contest pitting Watson against Holt and some other House members was intended to emphasize the need for increased math and science education to bolster U.S. global competitiveness. Holt, a physicist who was a five-time winner on 'Jeopardy!' 35 years ago, played the first round against Watson. According to Holt's office, the Democratic congressman dusted the computer in categories such as 'Presidential Rhyme Time' and 'Also a Laundry Detergent.' (Example: 'What is a three-letter nickname for the Beatles?' Answer: 'What is Fab?')."

At the end of the round, Holt had earned $8,600 to Watson's $6,200. But Watson ultimately won the match against Congress overall. "I was proud to hold my own with Watson," Holt said in a statement. "While it was fun to out-do Watson for one night in trivia; it is vital that, as a nation, we out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world for generations to come."

Representing the U.S. House of Representatives' 12th District, Holt is a member of the Carleton College Class of 1970, where he earned a BA in physics. He later received his MA and PhD in physics from New York University. From 1980 to 1988 he served as a faculty member at Swarthmore College where he taught physics, public policy, and religion courses. During this time he also worked as a Congressional Science Fellow for U.S. Representative Bob Edgar of Pennsylvania, and from 1987 to 1989, Holt led the Nuclear and Scientific Division of the Office of Strategic Forces at the U.S. Department of State.

From 1989 until his successful congressional campaign in 1998, Holt served as the assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton University, Princeton's largest research facility and the site of the largest center for energy research in New Jersey.

In 2008, Holt received the ASME's President's Award in recognition of his "leadership in calling on a renewed national commitment to science, engineering, and math education programs."