After a long and lucrative TV career, much-loved Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek is estimated to be worth some $50 million. But Trebek wasn’t someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Far from it. Everything he has, he’s worked for himself. But his fairytale rise from rags to riches now has a dark shadow hanging over it.
George Alexander Trebek was born in 1940 in the city of Sudbury in Canada’s Ontario Province. His father, also called George, emigrated from the Ukraine to Canada while still a child and worked as a chef. His mother, Lucille Lagacé, was a French-speaking Canadian, so the Trebek home was bilingual. Trebek’s father helped his 13-year-old son to get his first job as a bellhop in the same hotel where he worked in the kitchen.
Trebek worked his way through college and graduated in philosophy from the University of Ottawa in 1961. He was a keen debater at college and already had his eyes on a broadcasting career. After graduation he got a presenter’s job with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, covering everything from news to sports. Eventually he reached the heights of presenting the national news.
From the mid-1960s, Trebek started to get work as a program host and in 1969 fronted his first game show, Strategy. In 1973 he made the move to America, landing the job of hosting a show called The Wizard of Odds. He went on to present various TV shows but it was in 1984 that he found his true calling as the host of a revived quiz. That program was called Jeopardy! and of course Trebek has fronted it ever since.
It was in March 2019 that Trebek revealed news that his many fans surely did not want to hear. He announced that he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Upbeat even in the face of this grim situation, Trebek joked that he’d have to beat the cancer, since he was contracted to present Jeopardy! for three more years. The 79-year-old continues in treatment while still presenting the show.