Former Lee University student wins 'America's Got Talent'

Former Lee University student wins 'America's Got Talent'

September 19th, 2018 by Meg Scarbrough in Breaking News
Shin Lim arrives at the "America's Got Talent" Season 13 Finale Show red carpet at the Dolby Theatre on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

CORRECTION: Shin Lim is a former Lee student.

Former Lee University student and close-up magician Shin Lim has won Season 13 of "America's Got Talent" and $1 million.

As part of his victory, he will also get to headline a show in Las Vegas.

"To have all of America watch me and appreciate what I do, it means the world to me," Lim said Wednesday.

Lim, who currently lives near Boston, began his performance Tuesday by playing piano, a change from previous acts. He then revealed to the audience that he had been a concert pianist before being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. He turned to magic when it became too difficult to play.

With host Tyra Banks sitting nearby, he then wowed the crowd with another spell-binding and ovation-inducing magic performance.

"That was a $1 million act," said judge Howie Mandel. "This is a worthy of your own show in Las Vegas.

On Wednesday during the finale, Lim performed a card trick with Banks and "American Ninja Warrior" hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila, leaving everyone on stage stunned.

"This is black magic!" Gbajabiamila said.

But Lim wasn't the only local face in the final five.

Michael Ketterer arrives at the "America's Got Talent" Season 13 Week 3 red carpet at the Dolby Theatre on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

Michael Ketterer arrives at the "America's Got Talent"...

Red Bank High School graduate Michael Ketterer, 40, became a fan favorite throughout the season with his voice and personal story. The pediatric mental health nurse who now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Ivey, and six children, talked about life with five adopted children and what the show meant to him.

"My family is my reason I'm here: my wife and my six children," he said during a golden buzzer performance in June. "One of the things that happens, especially because my children came out of foster care, when you're surviving you can't dream. And that has been one of the most rewarding things is providing them with a home and safe environment where they are free to dream. And so I'm here because I want to show them that if their dad can live out his dreams, then nothing is impossible for them."

He earned a golden buzzer from Cowell, who sent a shoutout to country music star Garth Brooks, asking him to write a song for the contestant.

On Wednesday, Brooks followed through.

"It's pretty cool when you can do anything with people like this," Brooks said before Ketterer performed his song.

Afterward, Cowell stood and applauded.

"I'm overhwhelmed. I cannot tell you how much I love you for what you just did for this man," he said of Brooks. " Michael, you are amazing."

But later in the night, Ketterer finished in fifth place.

A disappointed Cowell looked to console him as the crowd booed.

"You and I are going to continue this relationship. I'm so sorry you didn't make it," he said.

But it's not the end for Ketterer. He told the audience he will be performing with Brooks on Oct. 20 at Notre Dame. "It's sold out!"

Lim joins a growing list of local performers who have done well on TV talent shows. In 2011, Rossville native Lauren Alaina came in second place on "American Idol," and in 2015, Lee University alum Jordan Smith won "The Voice."

Wednesday's show featured several star-studded acts, including rock 'n' roll band Kiss, singers Bebe Rexha and Placido Domingo, comedian David Spade and others.

More than 10 million viewers were expected to tune into Wednesday's live finale on NBC.

Contact staff writer Meg Scarbrough at or 423-757-6260.