America’s favorite game show host: Alex Trebek

Months ago, beloved game show host Alex Trebek revealed to the world that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Since then, fans of the show have flooded social media with messages of love and support. On Nov. 11, 2019, one contestant even used his final answer to pass on one such message to Alex Trebek — a message that caught the host off guard and made him tear up.

Early life

Born to a French-Canadian mother and Ukrainian immigrant father, Trebek spent his years as a young child attending Jesuit school in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He was a curious child who showed promise from an early age.

A wide skating path is created on Ramsey Lake every winter and becomes the centre for winter activities near Science North in Sudbury. January 22, 2016

Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

At the age of 12, he began attending boarding school in Ottawa. “Sudbury is a more distant memory,” he said, “because I was born there and raised there, but I left to go away to boarding school.”


After graduating from high school in 1957, Trebek began attending the University of Ottawa, where he studied philosophy. This was short-lived, however, as Trebek pivoted to journalism shortly before graduating university in 1961.

singing Alex Trebek, young Trebek

@JodiesJumpsuit via Twitter

It didn’t take long for his on-camera talent to be recognized — he scored a job at CBC TV as a substitute reporter and news anchor even before graduating.

Early career

Trebek worked extremely hard at this time in his career — he was attending school in the morning and working through the night. “I did everything, at one time replacing every announcer in every possible job,” he said.

Alex Trebek, circa 1984.

Michael Ochs Archive via Getty Images

Trebek quickly made a name for himself — he was well-liked for his calm attitude and demeanor — something that the whole world would come to know and love him for, a sentiment one contestant would even feel compelled to share in his “Final Jeopardy” answer.

Pivoting from journalism

Even though Trebek was finding moderate success in his chosen career path, he once again decided to shift his focus. His calm demeanor and quick wit made him a perfect TV host.

young Trebek, reporter, news reporter

GoldenFiddle007 via Reddit

His first hosting gig was on the Canadian music program Music Hop in 1963. Three years later, he’d land a job as the host for a quiz show for high school students called Reach for the Top — a show where students from different high schools would face off in a series of academic challenges. These were humble beginnings, no doubt, but it quickly became clear that Alex was a star in the making.

Game show host

Alex Trebek had found his calling. He became a full-time host for CBC from 1967 to 1970, introducing classical music performances and a weekly skating program.

Reach for the Top, quiz show, early Trebek

retronewfoundland via YouTube

In 1969, he became the host of Strategy, a game show where contestants would be placed in a maze, answering questions and setting traps for their competition as they tried to reach the center of the maze and claim their prizes.

Strategy was short-lived, lasting only six months before cancellation. Luckily for Trebek, he was quickly picked up to host another show — but it meant taking a risk.

Alex Trebek and Carol Lawrence attend Variety Arts Club Tribute Gala Honoring Lucille Ball on November 18, 1984 at NBC TV Studios in Burbank, California.

Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Trebek was contacted by a fellow Canadian, the legendary game and talk show host, producer, and actor Alan Thicke. Thicke presented Alex Trebek with an opportunity, but it meant he’d have to move to the United States to host a new game show on NBC called The Wizard of Odds. But would this move pan out?