“Alex Trebek: International Icon” for $1000, Please

Ruth Fluharty, Staff Writer

Longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek passed away Nov. 8, 2020 at the age of 80. Here’s a look back at his legacy.

 In 1940, George Alexander Trebek was born in Ontario, Canada. His father had emigrated from Ukraine as a child and his mother was French Canadian. He grew up in a French-English bilingual household in the city of Sudbury. Growing up, most of his friends called him by his middle name, “Alex.” The nickname ended up sticking as he grew up and attended the University of Ontario, majoring in Philosophy and participating on the debate team.

While attending college, he began working for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Trebek would spend the morning in school and the night at work, doing every possible job he could. Eventually, he became a well-known and well-liked employee and was offered his first professional hosting gig in 1963.

After going from job to job at the Canadian Broadcasting Company, hosting various radio and game shows, he was given a huge opportunity: he was shortlisted to host the popular-at-the-time “Hockey Night in Canada” show. Unfortunately, this fell through and for a very strange reason: the man in charge didn’t want a man with a mustache to host “Hockey Night.” Missing out on this opportunity proved to be a good thing for Trebek.

In 1973, Trebek moved to the United States and began working for the National Broadcasting Company, or NBC. For the next eleven years, he hosted a number of short-lived game shows on NBC and quickly rose in popularity among audiences. In 1984, after the original host turned down the opportunity to host again, a revival of the 1964-1975 show “Jeopardy!” was being cast. Trebek filmed two pilot episodes which immediately took off, cementing him as the host of the new “Jeopardy!”.

Alex Trebek Death
Paul Couvrette

Though he made other television appearances throughout his career, “Jeopardy!” is Trebek’s most memorable and beloved role. He went on to host the show for a whopping 37 seasons and holds the Guinness World Record for hosting the most episodes of a game show. Trebek has appeared in over 8,200 episodes of “Jeopardy!” throughout his life, many of which are still yet to be aired.

In March 2019, Trebek was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. According the American Cancer Society, only 9% of people in all stages of pancreatic cancer make it past the first five years with the deadly disease. In spite of this, Trebek kept a positive outlook as he began receiving chemotherapy and made an effort to be open and transparent about his experience with the disease.

Even as his condition worsened, Trebek never stopped filming “Jeopardy!”. Whether he had just gotten surgery, received chemotherapy, or was in extreme pain, Trebek always showed up to tape. He never slowed down the grueling taping schedule, filming as many as five shows in a single day twice a week. The final day he taped in the studio was Oct. 29, 2020, just 11 days before he passed.

Alex Trebek Quote

In addition to his work on television, Trebek was also an avid philanthropist and activist. He started numerous foundations and organizations to further education and outreach, including the “Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue” and “Alex Trebek Leadership Award,” both for students at the University of Ontario. His contributions to his alma mater totaled $10 million dollars as of Oct. 2020. He has also been an active member of numerous other charities such as World Vision Canada and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Sadly, he was not able to win his fight against pancreatic cancer and died at the age of 80. Trebek leaves behind his wife, Jean Currivan-Trebek, and three children: Nicky, Matthew, and Emily. He spent his final days at peace with his family. His final episode of “Jeopardy!” will air Dec. 25, 2020. He will be loved and missed by generations of people all around the globe who grew up watching him. He has made us all smarter, happier and, most importantly, kinder. For that, we cannot thank him enough.