Professor Ikawa is retiring later this year. Hannah Kwapisz | Collegian

After 18 years at Hillsdale College, Bruce Ikawa — five-time “Jeopardy!” winner, travel aficionado, and professor of accounting — will retire in May, realizing he only had so many years left to explore, he said.
“He’s just been a great colleague; it’s like the end of an era,” Professor of Accounting Michael Sweeney said. “I’ve probably spent more time with him than I have with my wife for the past 18 years.”
A native Midwesterner, Ikawa earned his doctorate at the University of Michigan and taught at a number of places, including Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine universities. His longstanding right-wing pedigree and familiarity with the college after living in Michigan for a time brought him to Hillsdale, he said.
Although he can claim high success rates among accounting students who have taken the Certified Public Accountant Examination, Ikawa said he treasured his relationship with the students even more.
At the beginning of the semester for students in Accounting 209, Ikawa plays a game to learn students’ names. When students raise their hands to answer a question, Ikawa asks them to provide a hint for their name such as a description of an actor, athlete, or biblical character with the same name. Senior accounting major Caleb Gatchell said he didn’t remember Ikawa guessing any names incorrectly, and Ikawa said he sometimes remembers the clues, even when he sees students years later at homecoming.
“He’s a character, a genius, especially with numbers and what he can do in his head,” Gatchell said. “He knows at least a little bit about everything, and his breadth of knowledge makes him fun to have conversations with and interesting to get his take on things.”
In addition to hosting an Indian-food themed accounting tailgate, working with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, and holding an annual senior dinner for graduating accounting majors, Ikawa has also done a hamburger-eating challenge with some students. He and the students attempted to eat a 2.5-pound hamburger and a substantial amount of fries. The first time Ikawa attempted, he almost completed it, but the second time he said he was convinced by a student to give up before feeling sick.
“I think if we were going to do it again, you eat the french fries first, because cold french fries are inedible,” Ikawa said.
Sweeney joined him for the burger-eating competition, as well as many other activities.
“We are different personalities, but we meshed together real well,” he said. “We’ve published some articles together, gone to conferences together, hosted accounting club parties together, gone bowling. We’ve been to countless football and basketball games together, and we sat in the student section of the football field, before the students did. We went on a trip to Minnesota together when the football team made the playoffs.”
Ikawa is most famous at Hillsdale for his five successes on “Jeopardy!” — the most a single person could win at the time. In his journey, he correctly answered these questions: “Surprisingly Humphrey Bogart won Audrey [Hepburn] away from William Holden in this 1954 film,” “In 1969 this Supreme Court Justice resigned amid criticism of his financial dealings,” and “You’ll find a statue of Puck outside this library,” among many others.
“One thing I’m really good at is old movies,” Ikawa said. “But old movies — if you ask me the movies that are playing now, I don’t know anything about them. You have to know broad categories, things like geography, history, literature.”
Although his renowned “Jeopardy!” feats occurred in 1990, Ikawa was recently recruited to join team Trivia Newton John in the Students Activities Board’s trivia night at El Cerrito Mexican Restraunt and led the way to victory.
Senior Sam Clausen, one of the students on Trivia Newton John, said Ikawa helped the team while getting to know the students.
“Most of the time he let us come up with an answer and then would confirm it,” Clausen said. “There were a couple times we didn’t listen, and he was right; we were wrong. Another time, we didn’t have a clue. He waited until we gave up before answering.”
Despite Ikawa’s extensive knowledge, Gatchell said he is incredibly clear and easy to understand in class.
“Ikawa actually explains what’s going on and why you’re moving numbers,” Gatchell said. “He’s challenging…but I also found him to be pretty clear in class and he takes time to make sure that we understand what’s going on.”
Students know him for his signature, bright Hawaiian shirts and his affinity for traveling, an interest that ultimately inspired him to retire, realizing he only had so many years left to explore, he said. Thanks to his wife’s position with an airline company, he’s visited Mongolia, China, Japan, Vietnam, and France as well as Las Vegas, New Orleans, New York City, and several other cities. He said his favorite excursion was a rafting trip in Nepal in 1990.
He and his wife have a home in Michigan and another in Chicago, and he said he’s looking for a third location, as well.