Alex Trebek facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Trebek at the Peabody Awards in 2012
George Alexander Trebek
July 22, 1940
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
|Died||November 8, 2020
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Ottawa (BA)|
|Known for||Second host of Jeopardy! (1984–2020)|
|Honours||Order of Canada|
George Alexander Trebek OC ( July 22, 1940 – November 8, 2020) was a Canadian-American game show host and television personality. He is best known for hosting the syndicated general knowledge quiz game show Jeopardy! for 37 seasons from its revival in 1984 until his death in 2020. Trebek also hosted a number of other game shows, including The Wizard of Odds, Double Dare, High Rollers, Battlestars, Classic Concentration, and To Tell the Truth. He also made appearances, usually as himself, in numerous films and television series.
A native of Canada, Trebek became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998. For his work on Jeopardy!, Trebek received the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host eight times. He died on November 8, 2020, at the age of 80, after a 20-month battle with stage IV pancreatic cancer. At the time of his death, Trebek had been contracted to host Jeopardy! until 2022.
Trebek was born on July 22, 1940, in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, the son of George Edward Trebek (born Terebeychuk), a chef who had emigrated from Ukraine as a child, and Lucille Marie Lagacé (April 14, 1921 – 2016), a Franco-Ontarian. Trebek had roots in Renfrew County, Ontario, where his maternal grandmother was born in Mount St. Patrick near Renfrew. Trebek grew up in a bilingual French-English household. He was almost expelled from the boarding school that his parents sent him to. Shortly after, Trebek attended a military college but dropped out when he was asked to cut his hair. Trebek's first job at age 13 was as a bellhop at the hotel where his father worked as a chef. Trebek attended Sudbury High School (now Sudbury Secondary School) and then attended the University of Ottawa. He graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in philosophy in 1961. While a university student, Trebek was a member of the English Debating Society. At the time, he was interested in a broadcast news career.
Before completing his degree, Trebek began his career in 1961 working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. According to Trebek, "I went to school in the mornings and worked at nights; I did everything, at one time replacing every announcer in every possible job." He would eventually read the CBC national radio news and cover a wide range of special events for CBC Radio and CBC Television, including curling and horse racing.
Trebek's first hosting job was on a Canadian music program called Music Hop in 1963. In 1966, he hosted a high school quiz show called Reach for the Top. From 1967 to 1970, Trebek was a host for the CBC, introducing classical music programs including performances by Glenn Gould. For one or two seasons, he hosted a weekly skating program. Starting on April 1, 1969, Trebek also hosted Strategy, a weekday afternoon game show. From 1971 until the end of 1972, he hosted I'm Here Til 9, the local morning drive radio show on CBC Toronto.
In 1971, Trebek was one of several to have been shortlisted to succeed Ward Cornell as host of Hockey Night in Canada. Although Trebek was the preferred choice of executive producer Ralph Mellanby, based on his audition and other CBC roles, Mellanby stated in 2020 that he ultimately chose Dave Hodge instead, because his boss did not want someone with a mustache to host Hockey Night.
In 1973, Trebek moved to the United States and worked for NBC as host of a new game show, The Wizard of Odds. A year later Trebek hosted the popular Merrill Heatter-Bob Quigley game show High Rollers, which had two incarnations on NBC (1974–76 and 1978–80) and an accompanying syndicated season (1975–76). In between stints as host of High Rollers, Trebek hosted the short-lived CBS game show Double Dare (not to be confused with the 1986 Nickelodeon game show of the same name). Double Dare turned out to be Trebek's only game show with the CBS network (he returned there in 1994 to host the Pillsbury Bake-Off until 1998), and the first show he hosted for what was then Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions, as well as the second season of the syndicated series The $128,000 Question, which was recorded in Toronto.
Since the second incarnation of High Rollers premiered while The $128,000 Question was still airing and taping episodes, Trebek became one of two hosts to emcee shows in both the United States and Canada, joining Jim Perry, who was hosting Definition and Headline Hunters in Canada and Card Sharks, which coincidentally premiered the same day as High Rollers in 1978 in the United States. Trebek's francophone side was put on display in 1978, in a special bilingual edition of Reach for the Top and its Radio-Canada equivalent, Génies en herbe. In this show, Trebek alternated smoothly between French and English throughout.
Like other hosts of the day, Trebek made several guest appearances as a panelist or player on other shows. One of his guest appearances was on a special week of NBC's Card Sharks in 1980. Trebek and several other game show hosts (Allen Ludden, Bill Cullen, Wink Martindale, Jack Clark, Tom Kennedy, Gene Rayburn, and Jim Lange) competed in a week-long round-robin tournament for charity. Trebek won the tournament, defeating Cullen in the finals. Trebek also appeared as a celebrity teammate on the NBC game show The Magnificent Marble Machine in 1975, and the Tom Kennedy-hosted NBC word game To Say the Least in 1978. Both of those shows were produced by Merrill Heatter-Bob Quigley Productions, which also produced High Rollers, the show Trebek was hosting during both of those guest appearances. Trebek also was a contestant on Celebrity Bowling in 1976, teamed with Jim McKrell. The duo won their match against Dick Gautier and Scatman Crothers.
After High Rollers was cancelled in 1980, Trebek moved on to Battlestars for NBC. The series debuted in October 1981 and was cancelled in April 1982 after only six months on the air. In September 1981, Trebek took the helm of the syndicated Pitfall, which taped in Vancouver and forced him to commute, as Trebek had done while hosting High Rollers and The $128,000 Question in 1978. Pitfall was cancelled after its production company, Catalena Productions, went bankrupt. As a result, Trebek was never paid for that series. After both series ended, he hosted a revival of Battlestars called The New Battlestars that ended after 13 weeks, then shot a series of pilots for other series for producer Merrill Heatter, for whom he had worked hosting High Rollers and Battlestars, and Merv Griffin. The Heatter pilots were Malcolm, an NBC-ordered pilot featuring Trebek with an animated character as his co-host, and Lucky Numbers, an attempt at a revival of High Rollers that failed to sell. For Griffin, (who was ultimately encouraged to hire Trebek by Lucille Ball) he shot two pilots for a revival of Jeopardy! when original host Art Fleming (a friend of Trebek's) declined to return to the role owing to creative differences. This revival sold, and Trebek began hosting it in 1984 and remained the host until his death in 2020. His final episode hosting Jeopardy! was to air on Christmas Day 2020; however, Sony announced on November 23, 2020, that the air dates of Trebek's final week would be postponed, with episodes scheduled for the week of December 21–25 being postponed to January 4–8, 2021 due to the delay caused by the cancellation of most November production dates and pre-emptions caused by holiday week specials and shorts.
Following Trebek's death, a series of guest hosts filled in for Trebek for the remainder of season 37 of Jeopardy! (his final season).
In 1987, while still hosting Jeopardy!, Trebek returned to daytime television as host of NBC's Classic Concentration, his second show for Mark Goodson. Trebek hosted both shows simultaneously until September 20, 1991, when Classic Concentration aired its final first-run episode (NBC would air repeats until 1993). In 1991, he made broadcast history by becoming the first person to host three American game shows at the same time, earning this distinction on February 4, 1991, when Trebek took over from Lynn Swann as host of NBC's To Tell the Truth for Goodson-Todman, which Trebek hosted until the end of the series' run on May 31, 1991.
In 1994, Trebek returned to the CBS network for the first time since hosting Double Dare to host the Pillsbury Bake-Off, which he hosted until 1998. Trebek and Pat Sajak, host of Wheel of Fortune, traded places on April Fools' Day 1997. Pat Sajak hosted Jeopardy! and Trebek hosted Wheel of Fortune with Sajak's wife, Lesly, as Trebek's co-host. Sajak and Wheel of Fortune co-host Vanna White played contestants at the wheel, with winnings going toward charities. Trebek appeared on Celebrity Poker Showdown in 2005 and came in second place in his qualifying game, losing to Cheryl Hines.
On June 24, 2018, Trebek returned as a panelist on the ABC revival of To Tell the Truth. He hosted a Jeopardy! primetime special event titled The Greatest of All Time on ABC in January 2020, pitting the highest money winners in the show's history, Brad Rutter, Ken Jennings, and James Holzhauer, against each other.
Trebek made multiple guest appearances on other television shows, ranging from Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2008 and 2011 to The Colbert Report series finale. In August 1995, during a return to his broadcast-news roots, Trebek filled in for Charles Gibson for a week on Good Morning America. Trebek was also a guest star in season 3 of The X-Files, playing one of two "Men in Black" (human agents charged with the supervision of extraterrestrial lifeforms on Earth, hiding their existence from other humans) opposite Jesse Ventura, in the episode "Jose Chung's From Outer Space", which first aired on April 12, 1996. On June 13, 2014, Guinness World Records presented Trebek with the world record for most episodes of a game show hosted, with 6,829 episodes at the time. He has also appeared in multiple television commercials.
Trebek married broadcaster Elaine Callei in 1974. They had no children, although Trebek adopted Callei's daughter Nicky. The couple divorced in 1981. In 1990, he married Jean Currivan, a real estate project manager from New York. They had two children, Matthew and Emily.
On January 30, 2004, Trebek escaped major injury after falling asleep behind the wheel of his pickup truck while driving alone on a rural road in the Central Coast town of Templeton, California, returning from a family home in Lake Nacimiento. The truck sideswiped a string of mailboxes, flew 45 feet over an embankment, and came to rest against a utility pole in a ditch. Trebek was not cited for the accident and returned to work taping Jeopardy! four days later.
Trebek owned and managed a 700-acre (283 ha) ranch near Paso Robles in Creston, California, known as Creston Farms, where he bred and trained thoroughbred racehorses. His colt Reba's Gold is the stakes-winning son of Slew o' Gold. Trebek sold the operation in 2008 and the property is now an event center called Windfall Farms.
In a 2018 interview with Vulture, Trebek said he was a political moderate and registered independent, neither conservative nor liberal, with some libertarian leanings. Trebek stated he believed in God as a Christian. During a 2018 gubernatorial debate, Trebek said that he was raised Catholic during his childhood and adolescence.
Pancreatic cancer and death
On March 6, 2019, Trebek announced that he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.
Trebek underwent surgery related to his cancer treatment in October. Trebek returned to the show two weeks after the surgery but was unable to handle his full workload because of pain from the surgery and had to split his usual five-episode taping session over two days; these five episodes would be his last. Trebek taped his final episode on October 29, 2020. Ten days later, on November 8, Trebek died at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 80, after 20 months fighting pancreatic cancer. It was the same disease that affected his predecessor and the original host of Jeopardy! Art Fleming, who died a little over 25 years earlier. Trebek was cremated and his remains were given to his wife. Trebek's estate was liquidated in an estate sale in April 2022 as his daughter prepared to sell his home in Studio City.
Shortly after Trebek's death, Jeopardy! contestant and future host Ken Jennings, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Wheel of Fortune hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White were among those who paid tribute.
On the November 9, 2020, episode of Jeopardy!, as a tribute to Trebek, then-executive producer of both Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune Mike Richards, visibly emotional, opened the show with this statement:
I'm Mike Richards, the executive producer of Jeopardy! Over the weekend, we lost our beloved host Alex Trebek. This is an enormous loss for our staff and crew, for his family, and for his millions of fans. He loved this show and everything it stood for. In fact, he taped his final episodes less than two weeks ago. He will forever be an inspiration for his constant desire to learn, his kindness, and for his love of his family. We will air his final 35 episodes as they were shot. That's what he wanted. On behalf of everyone here at Jeopardy!, thank you for everything, Alex. This is Jeopardy!
The lights on the set then dimmed blue in remembrance.
After each posthumous episode in season 37, the title card read, "Dedicated to Alex Trebek. Forever in our hearts. Always our inspiration."
On the first anniversary of his death, which was also the day that the first episode Ken Jennings hosted in season 38 was aired, a different title card read, "Alex Trebek, July 22, 1940 – November 8, 2020. You are missed every day." On the second anniversary of his death, Trebek was honored in a category entitled "Remembering Alex Trebek" during the Jeopardy! Round of the 2022 Tournament of Champions special exhibition episode of Jeopardy!
Since Trebek's death, various television networks aired their own tributes to him such as MeTV (which played "What Is... Cliff Clavin?" and "Mama on Jeopardy!", two episodes of the classic 1980s sitcoms Cheers and Mama's Family respectively in which Jeopardy! was a plot device), Buzzr (which aired episodes of shows Trebek guest starred in such as Card Sharks or hosted such as Classic Concentration and To Tell the Truth in the Fremantle library) and Game Show Network (which aired a Jeopardy! marathon). On the premiere episode of the rebooted American version of The Chase, where Jeopardy! champions James Holzhauer, Brad Rutter, and Ken Jennings were chasers, host Sara Haines paid tribute to Trebek at the start of the show.
Trebek's final episode of Jeopardy! aired on January 8, 2021, concluding with a 90-second tribute to Trebek.
In 2021, the Jeopardy! stage was renamed "The Alex Trebek Stage", with his family present at the dedication.
Philanthropy and activism
Trebek was a longtime philanthropist and activist. He was active with multiple charities, including World Vision Canada and United Service Organizations. For World Vision, Trebek travelled to many developing countries with World Vision projects, taping reports on the group's efforts on behalf of children around the world. He and the Jeopardy! crew became involved with the United Service Organizations in 1995, appearing on several military bases throughout the world, both in an attempt to find contestants and as a morale booster for the troops. Trebek also donated 74 acres (30 hectares) of open land in the Hollywood Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in 1998. He was later awarded one of the American Foundation for the Blind's six yearly Access Awards for his role in accommodating Jeopardy! champion Eddie Timanus. Trebek hosted the annual The Great Canadian Geography Challenge in Canada. He hosted the National Geographic Bee in the United States for 25 years, stepping down in 2013. He also served on the advisory board of U.S. English, an organization that supports making English the official language of the United States.
In 2016, Trebek donated $5 million to the University of Ottawa to fund the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue, the objective of which is "to expose students to a wide range of diverse views, through speeches, public panels, events and lectures by University of Ottawa researchers, senior government officials and guests speakers from around the world." His gifts to the university, which at the time totaled $7.5 million, also fund a Distinguished Speaker Series, which has included a presentation by Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee, introduced by Trebek. In 2017, he funded the Alex Trebek Leadership Award at the University of Ottawa, an annual $10,000 award to a summa cum laude graduate who has also demonstrated community leadership. By October 2020, Trebek's contributions to the University of Ottawa totalled around $10 million.
In March 2020, Trebek donated $100,000 to Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter in Los Angeles.
Trebek owned his own wardrobe, consisting of dozens of outfits and hundreds of neckties. In February 2021, Trebek's son, Matthew, donated the wardrobe to The Doe Fund, in keeping with a statement Trebek had made on his last day of taping.
Awards and honors
In 1997, Trebek was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of the university (D.Univ) from the University of Ottawa. In addition to awards for Jeopardy!, he received a great deal of recognition. Trebek received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto. He was also awarded eight Outstanding Game Show Host Emmy Awards (1989, 1990, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2019, 2020, and 2021) and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (located at 6501 Hollywood Boulevard, near those for Ann-Margret and Vincent Price).
On November 4, 2010, Trebek received the Royal Canadian Geographical Society's gold medal for his contribution to geographic education and the popular study of geography. Previous recipients of this award include the author and anthropologist Wade Davis (2009), Peter Gzowski (1997), and Mary May Simon (1998). In 2016, Trebek was named the Honorary President of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society; in that capacity, he was present at the opening of the RCGS's new headquarters in 2018.
In 2011, it was announced that Trebek would be one of the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmy Awards. That same year, he received an Honorary Doctorate from Fordham University. Since June 13, 2014, Trebek has held a Guinness World Record for "the most gameshow episodes hosted by the same presenter (same program)" for having hosted 6,829 episodes of Jeopardy!, overtaking previous record holder Bob Barker. On May 4, 2015, Trebek's alma mater, the University of Ottawa, named its alumni hall in his honor, as a benefactor to the university.
In May 2016, Trebek was given the Key to the City by the City of Ottawa. On June 30, 2017, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada by then-Governor General David Johnston for "his iconic achievements in television and for his promotion of learning, notably as a champion for geographical literacy." On June 28, 2019, Trebek was awarded the 2019 Americanism Award by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
On January 7, 2020, Trebek was awarded along with his wife Jean, the Fordham Founder's Award at Fordham University.
In December 2019, Trebek was named the winner of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television's Icon Award for the 8th Canadian Screen Awards in 2020. Although the ceremony was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, the award was presented to Trebek in a recorded acceptance speech, which the academy released to social media platforms in January 2021 to coincide with the broadcast of Trebek's last episode of Jeopardy!
In July 2021, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the National Geographical Society announced a grant program called The Trebek Initiative, whose goal is to promote emerging Canadian explorers, scientists, educators and photographers. A month later, artist Kevin Ledo created a mural memorializing Trebek on the outer wall of Sudbury Secondary School, where Trebek had attended high school, as part of the Up Here Festival.
On August 19, 2021, prior to the start of Jeopardy! season 38 taping, Sony Pictures Studios sound stage Studio 10 was officially renamed as "The Alex Trebek stage".
On September 29, 2022, Trebek was posthumously inducted into the inaugural class of the Jeopardy! Hall of Fame at the first Jeopardy! Honors event. His widow, Jean, accepted the award on his behalf.
Television and film appearances
- 1963–1964: Music Hop (CBC)
- 1964: Vacation Time – co-host (CBC)
- 1966–1970: CBC Championship Curling – announcer (CBC)
- 1966–1973: Reach for the Top (CBC)
- 1969: Barris & Company – co-host/announcer (pilot) (CBC)
- 1969: Strategy (CBC)
- 1971: Pick and Choose (CBC)
- 1972: Outside/Inside (CBC)
- 1973: TGIF – announcer (CBC)
- 1973: The Wizard of Odds (NBC)
- 1974–1976, 1978–1980: High Rollers (NBC)
- 1976–1977: Double Dare (CBS)
- 1976–1980: Stars on Ice (CTV)
- 1977–1978: The $128,000 Question
- 1980–1981: Wall $treet
- 1981–1982: Pitfall
- 1981–1983: Battlestars
- 1983: Malcolm (pilot)
- 1983: Starcade (pilot)
- 1984–2021: Jeopardy!
- 1985: Lucky Numbers (pilot)
- 1987: Second Guess (unsold pilot)
- 1987: VTV-Value Television – co-host with Meredith MacRae
- 1987–1991: Classic Concentration
- 1989–2013: The National Geographic Bee national finals
- 1990: Super Jeopardy!
- 1991: To Tell the Truth (1990–1991) – from February to May 1991
- 1993: The Red Badge of Courage/Heart of Courage – Canadian-produced show highlighting brave individuals
- 1996–1998: The Pillsbury Bake-Off
- 1997: Wheel of Fortune – April Fools' Day episode (also a substitute host in August 1980)
- 1999: Live from the Hollywood Bowl – annual live broadcast
- 2017: Game Changers – host and executive producer
- 2020: Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time
- 1987: Mama's Family – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! (episode 4.19 – "Mama on Jeopardy!")
- 1988: For Keeps – as himself, the host of Jeopardy!
- 1988: Rain Man – as himself, the host of Jeopardy!
- 1990: Cheers – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! (episode 8.14 – "What Is... Cliff Clavin?")
- 1990: Predator 2 – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! (voice)
- 1990: The Earth Day Special – as himself, the host of Jeopardy!
- 1991: WrestleMania VII – as himself, a ring announcer and interviewer
- 1992: The Golden Girls – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! (episode 7.16 – "Questions and Answers")
- 1992: White Men Can't Jump – as himself, the host of Jeopardy!
- 1993: Short Cuts – as himself, the host of Jeopardy!
- 1993: Groundhog Day – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! show #1656
- 1993: The Larry Sanders Show – as himself, the minister who marries Hank Kingsley (episode 2.15 – "Hank's Wedding")
- 1993: Rugrats – as Alan Quebec, the host of "Super Stumpers" (episode 2.37 – "Game Show Didi")
- 1995: The Nanny – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! (episode 3.2 – "Franny and the Professor")
- 1995: Beverly Hills, 90210 – as himself, the host of Jeopardy!
- 1995: Blossom – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! (episode 5.14 – "Who's Not on First")
- 1995: Jury Duty – as himself, the host of Jeopardy!
- 1996: The X-Files – as a Man in Black who Agent Mulder thought looked "incredibly" like himself (episode: "Jose Chung's From Outer Space")
- 1996: Seinfeld – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! (episode 8.9 – "The Abstinence")
- 1996: The Magic School Bus – Announcer (voice) (episode 2.6 – "Shows and Tells")
- 1996: Ellen's Energy Adventure – as himself, the host of Jeopardy!
- 1997: Ned and Stacey – as himself, the host of Jeopardy!
- 1997: The Simpsons – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! in "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace" (Voice)
- 1998: Baywatch – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! (episode 9.8 – "Swept Away")
- 1998: The Weird Al Show – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! (voice)
- 1998: Mafia! – himself, riding on a parade float
- 2000: Finding Forrester – as himself, the host of Jeopardy!
- 2000: Charlie's Angels – as himself, the host of Jeopardy!
- 2000: Saturday Night Live – himself
- 2000: Arthur – as Alex Lebek, the host of Riddle Quest
- 2000: Pepper Ann – as himself (2 episodes)
- 2002: Saturday Night Live – himself
- 2006: Family Guy – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! in "I Take Thee Quagmire" (voice)
- 2007: The Bucket List – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! (voice)
- 2010: How I Met Your Mother – himself in "False Positive"
- 2012: The Simpsons – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! in "Penny-Wiseguys" (Voice)
- 2013: How I Met Your Mother – himself in "P.S. I Love You"
- 2013: Delta Air Lines – as himself, answering a Jeopardy-like question in the final segment of Delta's Holiday-themed safety video.
- 2014: Hot in Cleveland – as himself and Park Ranger Alex Trebek
- 2014: Delta Air Lines – as himself, seen raising hand after being asked if the passengers have any questions toward the end of a Delta safety video.
- 2014: The Colbert Report (series finale) – as himself, "the man who knows all the answers", in Santa's sleigh.
- 2015: The Amazing Race Canada 3 – as himself/Sudbury Pit Stop greeter
- 2018: Orange Is the New Black – as himself
- 2018: RuPaul's Drag Race – as himself
- 2020: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – as himself
- 2020: 2020 NHL Entry Draft – as himself
- 2020: Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? - as himself, the host of Jeopardy! in "Total Jeopardy" (voice, posthumous release)
- 2021: Free Guy – as himself, the host of Jeopardy! (final film role, posthumous)
In Spanish: Alex Trebek para niños
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