Alex Trebek (1940-2020)

Alex Trebek

Year Born: 1940

Year Died: 2020

Best known for his many years as the host of the syndicated American game show Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek started his broadcasting career as a staff announcer (radio and television) at CBC Ottawa in 1961 while still attending school. He then moved to CBC Toronto to become a national staff announcer for radio and TV. He was involved with the following CBC Television shows between 1962 and 1973: Vacation Time (host), Music Hop (host), Reach For The Top (host), Barris and Company (announcer), Strategy (host), Pick and Choose (announcer), and Outside Inside (host).

In 1971 Trebek became the morning show host at CBL-AM Toronto and in 1973-74, was one of the hosts of CBLT-TV Toronto’s TGIF. Later Canadian works: host of Stars on Ice (CTV) and a performer on Global’s Witness to Yesterday. Alex moved to the United States in 1973 and began hosting TV game shows, including The Wizard of Odds, High Rollers, Double Dare, Pillsbury Bake-Off, and The $128,000 Question, among others. In 1984, Trebek began hosting the revived Jaopardy! after Art Fleming (the original host) turned the role down.

In addition to hosting game shows, Alex guest hosted on programs like Good Morning America, and guest starred on a number of prime time television series such as The X-Files, How I Met Your Mother, Cheers, The Golden Girls, Mama’s Family, Blossom, and Hot in Cleveland. He was also a compensated endorser in commercials for Colonial Penn Life Insurance, and was familiar to Canadian viewers for his involvement with World Vision Canada. Trebek hosted The Great Canadian Geography Challenge on an annual basis and in the U.S., hosted the National Geographic Bee. Alex Trebek’s memoir, The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life was released in 2020.

Alex Trebek was born July 22, 1940 in Sudbury, Ontario. His father came to Canada from Ukraine while his mother was Franco-Ontarian. Growing up in a bilingual home, Alex was fluent in both official languages. Trebek graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in Philosophy. He was married to Elaine Callei from 1974 to 1981, and adopted Elaine’s daughter Nicky. He married Jean Currivan in 1990 and they had two children, Matthew and Emily. In 1996, he received an honorary doctorate from the University and in 1998, he received the Meritas Tabaret Award for Alumni Achievement, the top award bestowed on alumni by the University. In 1998, he became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. Alex suffered two heart attacks and in 2019, he announced he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. 

Guinness World Records gave Alex the world record for most episodes of a game show for his work on Jeopardy! in 2014 (6,829 episodes at that time: in 2020 the series had passed the 8000 mark. In 2011 he was given the Peabody Award for “encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge,” later received stars on Canada’s Walk of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Emmy Awards, the Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2017 he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. The Royal Canadian Geographical Society awarded Alex its gold medal for his contribution to geographic education and the popular study of geography.

While the Covid-19, pandemic halted production on Jeopardy and scores of other television series early in 2020, Alex continued to record intros for various repeat episodes of the series that continued to appear, in between undergoing various treatments for his cancer, and later hosted new episodes in which he and the contestants pobserved social distancing, and there was no audience.

Alex Trebek died of pancreatic cancer on Sunday November10th 2020.