Alex Trebek, the instantly recognizable and much-loved host of the game how Jeopardy!, has died at age 80 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
A message on the official Jeopardy! Twitter account confirmed the news and thanked the host, saying he “passed away peacefully at home early this morning, surrounded by family and friends.”
Born in Ontario, Canada, in 1940, Trebek is best known as the host of the long-running, popular game show Jeopardy!, which he hosted for more than three decades. An iconic TV personality who frequently made cameos and guest appearances in movies and television shows over the years, Trebek first announced his diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer in early March.
A Message from Alex Trebek: pic.twitter.com/LbxcIyeTCF
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) March 6, 2019
“Normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this,” said Trebek at the time.
In an op-ed published in the New York Times just a few days later, record-setting Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings opined on why Trebek had become such a fixture in popular culture, calling him “our generation’s [Walter] Cronkite.”
“[Johnny] Carson and Cronkite are long gone, but Alex Trebek remains, the last of the old-school broadcasters who once visited us every night as a matter of ritual,” wrote Jennings. “Two generations of youngsters have now grown up on his clipped syllables. College students and retirees alike plan their evenings around his reassuring presence. He takes it seriously, being the face of Jeopardy!, the voice of facts in a post-fact world.”
Early in his career, Trebek served as an announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the host of a Canadian music program before taking on the first of many game-show-hosting jobs that would pepper his résumé in the years that followed. His first game-show-hosting positions were with a high-school quiz show in 1966 and the couples quiz show Strategy a few years later.
Moving from one game-show-hosting job to the next for nearly two decades, Trebek eventually filmed a pair of pilot episodes for a revival of Jeopardy!, Merv Griffin’s quiz show that had already been revived twice in limited runs. The show proved to be a hit and began Trebek’s long run as the host of Jeopardy!, which began in 1984.
His record-setting run on the show didn’t prevent him from popping up elsewhere, too.
In 1991, several years into his hosting duties on Jeopardy!, Trebek made television history by hosting three game shows at the same time. He took over hosting duties on the morning game show Classic Concentration in 1987, and then a few years later, succeeding Lynn Swann as host of NBC’s To Tell the Truth, which he hosted until May 1991. Between February and May of that year, he served as host of all three shows simultaneously.
Trebek’s television appearances weren’t limited to game shows in later years, particularly as his dry humor and hosting persona earned him legions of fans outside the world of Jeopardy!.
Along with appearing in various commercials, Trebek made guest appearances in popular series such as How I Met Your Mother and Hot in Cleveland. He famously made a key cameo in the final episode of The Colbert Report, ushering host Stephen Colbert out of the studio and off to his new role as host of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
His genre-spanning career earned Trebek a long list of honors in the U.S. and elsewhere, including stars on both Canada’s Walk of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A five-time Emmy Award winner for his work on Jeopardy!, Trebek was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the 2011 Daytime Emmy Awards.
Trebek’s work in nurturing geographical literacy was also recognized at various points throughout his career, culminating with him being named an Officer of the Order of Canada — one of the nation’s highest honors — in 2017 for his “iconic achievements in television and for his promotion of learning, notably as a champion for geographical literacy.”
Trebek is survived by his wife Jean Currivan and two children, Matthew and Emily.