Longtime Jeopardy! Host Alex Trebek dies at 80, Utica College students reflect

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Illustration from Alyssa McKenna

Bailey Hryb, News Editor

Alex Trebek, long running host of the popular trivia show Jeopardy! and a pop culture icon amongst various generations of avid fans, has passed away at the age of 80 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, the official Jeopardy! Twitter account confirmed on Nov. 8.

Canandian-born Trebek set his eyes on becoming a TV personality from a young age. He attended the University of Ottawa with the hopes of one day becoming a broadcast news anchor. In 1973, Trebek moved to the U.S. and landed his first game show hosting gig on the NBC show The Wizard of Odds.

It was not until 1984 when, after numerous short-lived gigs hosting various game shows on multiple TV networks, that Trebek acquired what would make him a household name. 

While hosting Jeopardy!, Trebek completed over 8,000 episodes that stretched over a 37 season period. The show won a record number of 39 Daytime Emmy Awards, with Trebek winning seven during his nearly 40 year period hosting the show. 

Trebek had previously announced to his fans that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in March 2019, yet remained confident in his ability to fight the disease. 

“Now, normally the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this and I’m going to keep working,” Trebek said in a video posted to the Jeopardy! YouTube page regarding his diagnosis in 2019. “I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease. Truth told, I have to!” 

Trebek did continue to tape episodes of the show while receiving chemotherapy. He admitted in a May 2019 interview with CBS Sunday Morning that he had to start wearing a wig on set after he had lost his hair during his treatment. Nevertheless, Trebek remained his quick-witted, poised self while recording a slew of episodes until his death.

While the news of his death shocked millions all over the world, it was unfortunately something that was to be expected. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. In more advanced cases, such as Trebek’s, chemotherapy may not be able to touch what has already developed. 

According to a report from the American Cancer Society, roughly 57,600 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year. Of that number, 47,050 people will pass away from the disease. The disease is more common in men. 

While television has lost one of it’s most famous faces, households across the world have lost a symbol of tradition and family value. Trebek became a pop culture icon amongst younger generations of people simply because they watched the show with older members of their family, sometimes each night of the week. 

“I watched Jeopardy! when I was younger about five times a week,” said Trey Cornish, a junior. “One of my fondest memories of Jeopardy! was the time spent watching it with my parents and grandparents on weeknights after dinner. It was a time I cherished most as a child.” 

Peter Gaughan, a senior majoring in government and geoscience, shared the same experience of watching the show with family. 

“I distinctly remember watching it with my great grandmother at my grandparents’ house with the whole family piled into the living room together,” Gaughan said. “My family, especially my father and I, would compete to try and get the answers before the contestants and each other.”

Trebek became a symbol of intelligence and grace during his time hosting the show. For many, he taught them the importance of education and remaining true to yourself. 

“Alex Trebeck was one of the few people outside my family when I was really young that encouraged me to learn more and be smarter, instead of the typical childhood bully experience of being teased for it,” Gaughan said. “I appreciated that and I think it set me on a path that resulted in my attending college despite that not necessarily being the most accessible path to everyone from where I am from.”

Trebek’s final show is set to air on Christmas Day, a posthumous gift from him to his fans. 

There are already talks of finding a replacement host for Jeopardy!, with many saying that famed contestant Ken Jennings, who holds the record for the highest amount of money won on a game show, should take the reins. Others say that the show should end with Trebek, citing him as irreplaceable. 

He will be remembered as one of television’s most legendary game show hosts, a master of trivia and a symbol of elegance in a career that spanned decades. 

Who is Alex Trebek?


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