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Fortune Favors the Bold: Marianne Walker G’09

“I’m very competitive. I like to win,” said Marianne Walker, G’09, describing her experience as a contestant on Wheel of Fortune.

Before earning her master’s in occupational therapy, Walker played soccer, basketball and softball at Bay Path. She approached the opportunity to spin the famous wheel the same way she approaches her life.

“My family has a word, ‘aventura.’ It’s like an adventure, with a twist,” she explained. “When there’s a chance to do something outside your traditional day-to-day, you have to go for it.”

Walker had been watching Wheel of Fortune for as long as she could remember, and the show looms large in memories of visits to her grandmother on Cape Cod. 

“My grandmother is 90 now. She still lives at home, and she’s my biggest role model and influencer,” Walker gushed. “We would always watch the show, and I would always tell her, ‘I’m going to be on one day.’ And she would humor me, and I would say, ‘I’m serious. I am going to be on that show someday.’ I’ve been applying every year since I was 21 years old.”

During the pandemic, Wheel of Fortune pivoted its audition process and allowed hopefuls to send in videos. Less than two weeks after submitting her video, Walker received a call.

“That was followed by four interviews on Zoom,” she explained. “An interview to make sure my personality would work for the show, to see if I could solve puzzles, to see what kind of competitor I was and even an interview with a ‘hype’ team to gauge my energy level. And then they basically said, ‘You will either hear from us or you won’t.’”

A few weeks after that, with her best friend as her travel companion, Walker was on a plane to Los Angeles.

“They film five episodes a day, so you’re there from 6:30 in the morning until 6:30 at night, and you’re isolated. You can only speak with other people who are on the show. They make sure you know all the rules and that you’re comfortable spinning the wheel,” she says. “There’s actually a detailed, official process for documenting heavy accents and speech impediments. And, of course, you meet Pat and Vanna, who are super kind and very cool.”

After an initial bout of nerves, Walker found her groove. She solved the second puzzle and then several more, before landing on Bankrupt during the prize puzzle, losing the opportunity to go to the bonus round. “I solved the most puzzles, but I came in second,” she said.

With $11,000 in winnings, the weekend paid for itself, as well as a trip to Disney World for Walker, her husband, Dustin, and their three children.

Walker’s latest adventure has been the launch of her business, Occupational Therapy of New England, which serves children with social emotional disabilities in Stow.

“Last year, my mother-in-law, before she passed away, said to me, ‘Marianne, you are going to start a business, and you are going to change the future for so many kids,” she recalled. “I needed to do that before she died.”

“I work mainly with kids with autism and sensory needs. I have a gym and a fine motor room, and I just hired my first two employees,” she said, adding, “You don’t know what the outcome is going to be. You don’t know what obstacles you’re going to hit, but you just have to go for it.”

Please visit the Master of Occupational Therapy program page to learn about curriculum, faculty, program options, and more!