May 29th 2008
Sophie Altman, creator of the long-running quiz show It's Academic, died on May 24th 2008 of heart disease. She was 95 years old.
Altman was born in 1913 in Springfield, Massachusetts. She graduated from Wellesley College and went on to Yale Law School, graduating in 1936. After moving to Washington D.C. to practice law, she married fellow lawyer Norman Altman in 1937. Their marriage lasted 60 years, until Norman passed away in 1997.
As a young wife and mother, Altman found that she was working too many hours as a lawyer and changed careers, taking a job with NBC working on such shows as Meet the Press and creating others such as Teen Talk. In 1961, she was assigned the task of creating a quiz show for high school students, and so It's Academic was born.
With the original program based in Washington, It's Academic is a trivia-based game that pits two teams of local high school students against each other. Over the course of its run, such famous faces as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Clarence Thomas, Cal Ripken Jr., and Laura Lippman have been part of their school teams. Actress Sandra Bullock was also on the show, as part of a cheerleading squad which was there to support their team.
Altman was passionate about rewarding academics and presenting a positive image of high school students. She strove to create family-oriented programming that would serve to educate as it entertained. She has been recognized with several honors, including eight Emmy Awards.
It's Academic is heading into its 48th season, making it the longest running quiz show in history. The show has been produced in over 20 cities across the United States, and exported to markets around the world. Sophie Altman remained Executive Producer and was busy crafting questions for the game up until a few weeks before her death.