Childhood & Early Life
Alex Trebek was born on 22 July 1940, in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, to Lucille and George Trebek. His mother was French Canadian, while his father was a Ukrainian immigrant who worked as a chef in a local hotel.
As a young boy he went to Jesuit schools and graduated from Lisgar Collegiate Institute in 1957. He went to the University of Ottawa to study philosophy and received his degree in 1961. While he was at the university he became a member of the English Debating Society.
He was interested in a career in broadcast news. Upon graduation in 1961, Trebek decided to pursue a career in journalism.
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Trebek's first hosting job was for a Canadian music program called ‘Music Hop’ in 1963.
Trebek hosted the short-lived ‘CBS’ game show ‘Double Dare’ which turned out to be his only game show with the ‘CBS’ network.
He began his journalistic career as a newscaster and sportscaster with the ‘CBC’ channel. His specialty was national news and he soon gained a reputation for being a cool headed and trustworthy journalist. He covered several special events for his channels’ radio and television divisions.
Even though his role as a newscaster was much appreciated, he changed gears and became the host of the Canadian quiz show ‘Reach for the Top’ in 1966 in which teams of high school students competed against each other.
He moved to the U.S. in 1973 to further his career. His first job there was to host the new ‘NBC’ game show ‘The Wizard of Odds.’ The show was short-lived as it lasted only one season.
He started hosting the game show ‘High Rollers’ in 1974. He was in the show for its two runs—from 1974-76, and 1978-80, and also in its syndicated season during 1975-76.
During 1977-78 he hosted the second season of ‘The $128,000 Question.’ In the show, each participant was quizzed under a category of their expertise. The show never registered high viewership ratings and was discontinued after the second season.
After hosting so many game shows, he became very popular as a show host and was invited to make several guest appearances as a panelist or player on several other shows, including NBC’s ‘Card Sharks’ and ‘The Magnificent Marble Machine.’
Trebek also appeared as a celebrity teammate on the ‘NBC’ game show ‘The Magnificent Marble Machine’ in 1975. He also appeared in the Tom Kennedy-hosted ‘NBC’ word game ‘To Say the Least’ in 1978.
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Trebek moved on to host ‘Battlestars’ for ‘NBC.’ The series debuted in October 1981, and was cancelled in April 1982. In September 1981, Trebek started hosting a Canadian game show titled ‘Pitfall.’
Trebek returned to daytime television as host of NBC's ‘Classic Concentration,’ his second show for Mark Goodson.
Trebek returned to the ‘CBS’ network for the first time since hosting ‘Double Dare’ to host a cooking contest titled ‘The Pillsbury Bake-Off,’ which he hosted until 1998.
He was asked to host the syndicated version of the game show ‘Jeopardy!’ which was created by Merv Griffin who had also created the ‘Wheel of Fortune.’ Trebek began hosting the show in 1984.
‘Jeopardy!’ is a unique game show in which the contestants are provided with clues in the form of answers. The contestants then have to phrase their responses in the form of questions. The show was very popular and was the winner of several ‘Daytime Emmy Awards.’
He created history in 1991 when he became the first person in American broadcast history to host three game shows at the same time— ‘Jeopardy!,’ ‘Classic Concentration,’ and ‘To Tell the Truth.’
He also appeared on ‘Celebrity Poker Showdown’ in 2005. He came in second place in his qualifying game, losing to Cheryl Hines.
On June 24, 2018, Trebek returned as a panelist on ABC’s revival of ‘To Tell the Truth.’
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Awards & Achievements
He won five ‘Daytime Emmy Awards’ for ‘Outstanding Game Show Host’ for hosting the show ‘Jeopardy!’
He received the ‘Royal Canadian Geographical Society's Gold Medal’ for his contribution to geographic education and the popular study of geography in 2010.
Trebek and the show ‘Jeopardy!’ were presented with the ‘Peabody Award’ in 2011 for “encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge.”
He received the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from the ‘National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ in 2011 for his contribution to the field of entertainment.
On June 13, 2014, Trebek created a ‘Guinness World Record’ for hosting most episodes of a game show. He had hosted 6,829 episodes of ‘Jeopardy!’ at the time.
On June 30, 2017, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada by the 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, the ‘Daughters of the American Revolution’ awarded the 2019 ‘Americanism Award’ to Trebek.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Elaine Callei in 1974. The marriage ended in divorce in 1981. His second marriage was to Jean Currivan in 1990. The couple has two children.
He is actively involved with the charitable organization ‘World Vision’ and has traveled to many third world countries to implement the organization’s projects.
On December 11, 2007, Trebek suffered a minor heart attack in his home, but returned to work as scheduled in January. He injured an Achilles tendon while chasing a burglar who had entered his San Francisco hotel room on July 27, 2011. He suffered a mild heart attack on June 23, 2012, but returned to work in July.
On March 6, 2019, Trebek announced that he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.