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Recent UW Graduate Wins Big on ‘Wheel of Fortune’

June 17, 2019
man on gameshow set
Recent University of Wyoming doctoral degree recipient Dean Wilson appears on a recent episode of “Wheel of Fortune,” where he won $19,250 in cash and $1,000 in prizes. (‘Wheel of Fortune’ Photo)

One highlight of Dean Wilson’s life was being hooded during the spring 2019 commencement ceremony for earning his Ed.D. in educational leadership from the University of Wyoming College of Education.

Another recent big event was when he appeared on the classic TV game show “Wheel of Fortune.”

“I applied to be on ‘Wheel’ because, as a former high school principal, I always encouraged students and staff to take risks and get outside of their comfort zones,” Wilson says. “I always have said if you take a moonshot, there are two options: land or learn. I was fortunate enough to land on the show.”

The risk was certainly worth the reward. Wilson won $19,250 in cash and $1,000 in prizes during his time on the show, and he made it to the Bonus Round. Although he didn’t pick letters that allowed him to solve the puzzle in the Bonus Round, he made the right moves earlier in the game to win big.

“I was fortunate to solve a ‘same letter first word’ puzzle that was ‘SIZZLING SIRLOIN STEAK.’ I ended up with the $1,000 wheel prize, hit the wild card and landed on $3,500. I called a letter and got $7,000 because there were two of them, and cashed in my wild card and got another $7,000 for calling another letter that had two as well,” Wilson says.

He ended up solving the puzzle without the letter “S,” which, according to host Pat Sajak, was the first time a “same letter first word” puzzle was solved without the first letter present.

After the excitement of earning a long-sought doctoral degree and his enjoying his 15 minutes of fame on national television, Wilson returned to his normal life in Roosevelt, Utah, with his wife and two young daughters. He will continue serving as vice president of student services at Uintah Basin Technical College and as a professional development consultant for MasteryConnect.

Wilson also is the co-founder of the nonprofit organization You Got This, which specializes in suicide prevention and relationship building. He is passionate about this cause, and a portion of his winnings will go toward supporting suicide prevention. Learn more about this organization at

“The experience of being both correct and incorrect on national TV was great,” he says. “I hope people realize it’s OK to not be OK and that your best effort is all anyone can ask for. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

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