The upcoming Scripps National Spelling Bee isn’t just to crown a new spelling champ, it’s also a working reunion of the old winners. Every year, former top spellers return and many run the show. “I’ve seen people cry when Bee Week comes to an end,” said former National Spelling Bee champion George Thampy, who will be back this year as a judge. “People understand them here. They wish they would never have to leave.” And so many of them never do, at least not for long. Here are a few of them, then and now.
| | Blake Giddens of El Paso spelled “purim” correctly to win the 1983 contest. (Courtesy Blake Giddens) | | Giddens is now a civil engineer in Fairfax, Va., and coming back as a judge for his 14th Bee.
| | Jacques Bailly of Denver won the Bee in 1980 and got to meet President Jimmy Carter, only to see his name misspelled on the White House program. | | Jacques Bailly, now associate professor of classics at the University of Vermont, has been the Bee’s official pronouncer for 12 years. He’s shown here pronouncing a word at the 2009 Bee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
| | George Thampy, who was depicted in the documentary “Spellbound” when he was runner up in 1999, is shown here after winning in 2000. (Courtesy Scripps Nations Spelling Bee) | | Thampy is a hospital administrator in St. Louis. He is returning for his 3rd year as a judge. (Courtesy George Thampy)
| | Paige Pipkin used a slow and methodical spelling style to became the first second-place finisher (1980) to come back the next year and capture the championship. (Courtesy Scripps National Spelling Bee) | | Paige Pipkin, now Paige Kimble, has been executive director of the Bee for 17 years.
| | Sameer Mishra wins the 2008 spelling bee after spelling the word guerdon correctly. (Courtesy Scripps National Spelling Bee) | | Mishra today is a sophomore in economics at Columbia University who is joining the Bee Week team for the first time this year. Sameer will be the person who live tweets every word that’s spelled on stage. (Courtesy Sameer Mishra)