Alex Trebek enjoyed an enduring career as a skilled, respected and award-winning television game show host for nearly five decades — until he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on Nov. 8, 2020. Join Wonderwall.com as we honor the television legend's memory with a look back at his life and career in pictures. Keep reading for the Canadian pop culture icon's photo flashback…
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On July 22, 1940, Alex Trebek was born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, to George and Lucille Trebek. While completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa, he took an interest in broadcast news. In 1961, he began his media career after landing a job at CBC — the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Two years later in 1963, he scored his first hosting gig on the Canadian music show "Music Hop." Over the next few years, he continued to build an impressive list of credits that included hosting a quiz show for high school students, "Reach for the Top," in 1966. In addition to being a host for CBC from 1967 to 1970, in 1969, Alex (seen here in the early '80s) hosted "Strategy," a weekday game show.
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Alex Trebek moved to the United States after landing a job as the host of the new NBC game show "The Wizard of Odds," which ran from 1973 to 1974. Then, from 1974 to 1976 and again from 1978 to 1980, he hosted NBC's "High Rollers," the famed Merrill Heatter-Bob Quigley game show (seen here). From 1976 to 1977, he also hosted the CBS game show "Double Dare" — the only show he would host on the network until 1994.
Talk about a throwback! Alex Trebek is pictured here alongside actress Rachel Ames at the Second Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in May 1975. The prestigious award ceremony took place at a unique location — on board the SS Dayliner in New York's Hudson River!
In 1974, Alex Trebek married businesswoman Elaine Callei. They were together for seven years before calling it quits in 1981. While they were together, Alex adopted Elaine's daughter, Nicky, who's since worked as a production coordinator on "Jeopardy!" He and Elaine are pictured here at the annual Thalian Ball in 1976.
Way back in the day! Alex Trebek hosted the weekly game show "The $128,000 Question," which was produced in Toronto, during its second season in 1977 and 1978.
Following the cancellation of "High Rollers" in 1980, Alex Trebek became the host of the short-lived NBC show "Battlestars," which premiered in 1981. The series was canceled in April 1982 — just six months after making its debut. Alex continued to host game shows that ultimately failed, including "Pitfall" and "The New Battlestars." Luckily, his luck turned around in 1984 when he was tapped to host a revival of "Jeopardy!" — a position he's held ever since. He's pictured here alongside a couple of contestants chosen to compete on "Jeopardy!" in 1988.
A dashing man! Alex Trebek is pictured here alongside Canadian actress Beverly Sassoon — they reportedly dated for three years in the mid-to-late '80s — at the Scott Newman Dinner Gala in Los Angeles in November 1985.
In 1987, though he was still hosting "Jeopardy!," Alex Trebek simultaneously became the host of NBC's "Classic Concentration." He would continue to host both shows until "Classic Concentration" wrapped in September 1991. He's pictured here during a promotional shoot for the children's memory game show circa 1990.
Wedding bells… again! In 1990 — the year this photo was taken — Alex Trebek tied the knot once more, this time with real estate project manager Jean Currivan, who's 23 years his junior. He proposed on her 26th birthday in September 1989. After she opened a birthday present — black velvet pants and a matching bolero jacket — "I thought that was it," Jean later told People magazine. "Then he said, 'Here's a little something else,' and he took out this little wicker box." Nestled inside was a ring featuring a 16-carat sapphire surrounded by diamonds. "It took my breath away. I mean, it was a rock," Jean added. After he popped the question, "I went all dumb. I think I said, 'What?'" The pair went on to have two children: son Matthew and daughter Emily.
A historic moment! In 1991, Alex Trebek made broadcast history, becoming the first individual to host three game shows — "Jeopardy!," "Classic Concentration and "To Tell the Truth" — simultaneously. He took over as the host of "To Tell the Truth" (pictured here) for the 1990-1991 season.
Two well-known hosts together! Alex Trebek is pictured here being interviewed on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in November 1994 — a little more than 10 years after he began hosting "Jeopardy!"
Alex Trebek: game show host and… actor? During the third season of "The X-Files," Alex guest starred alongside Jesse Ventura (pictured) on the episode titled "Jose Chung's From Outer Space," which aired in April 1996.
Alex Trebek dropped by "Saturday Night Live" in May 2002 to make a cameo in a "Celebrity Rock 'n' Roll Jeopardy!" sketch. He's seen here next to Will Ferrell, who impersonated him on the NBC sketch-comedy show for years. So did Alex like Will's send-up? "Absolutely. It doesn't bother me," he later told the New York Post." "If they're spoofing you, poking fun at you or mentioning you it's because you're part of American pop culture, and that's a good thing, I think."
He's a funnyman too! Alex Trebek is pictured here joking around at the 29th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in May 2002. That night, he was nominated for outstanding game show host. Since 1985, Alex has been nominated nearly every year in that same category.
Major congratulations! In May 2003, Alex Trebek took home a Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding game show host. This was his third time winning in that category. He'd previously taken home the award in 1989 and 1990 (and would go on to earn the prize again in 2006, 2008 and 2019).
An occasion to celebrate! In November 2005, "Jeopardy!" was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records (pictured here) — it could claim the most Emmy Awards won by a single television show. Between 1988 and 2005, "Jeopardy!" took home a whopping 25 Daytime Emmy Awards. Nine years later, Alex Trebek entered the Guinness Book of World Records himself: In 2014, he set the record for "most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter." At the time, he had hosted 6,829 episodes!
In April 2006, Alex Trebek — minus his trademark mustache — attended the 33rd Annual Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. He is pictured here speaking at the annual event.
Another win for the pop culture icon! Alex Trebek is pictured here in the press room at the 33rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles in April 2006. That evening, he took home his fourth Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding game show host.
In June 2006, Alex Trebek was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. The Canadian superstar is pictured here holding his trophy at Canada's Walk of Fame Gala in Toronto.
Alex Trebek was nominated for outstanding game show host once again at the Daytime Emmy Awards in June 2007. While he didn't take home the prize that night, he sure looked like he enjoyed himself! He's pictured here alongside another acclaimed game show host, "The Price is Right" star Bob Barker, at the annual event.
Well-deserved! In June 2011, Alex Trebek was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 38th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Las Vegas. He and "Wheel of Fortune" game show host Pat Sajak both received the honor that year.
And the awards just keep on coming! In May 2012 at the 71st Annual Peabody Awards, Alex Trebek and "Jeopardy!" received a Peabody for "encouraging, celebrating and rewarding knowledge." Alex shared his feelings about the honor, explaining, "I think what makes 'Jeopardy!' special is that, among all the quiz and game shows out there, ours tends to reward and encourage learning."
Alex Trebek brought son, Matthew Trebek, a New York City restaurateur, to the 11th Annual Giants of Broadcasting Honors in New York City in October 2013.
In October 2013, Alex Trebek was inducted into the Broadcast and Cable Hall of Fame! That wasn't the only honor he was given that year: He was also recognized as one of the "giants of broadcasting" by the Library of American Broadcasting.
Another credit to add to his acting list! Alex Trebek is pictured here with actor Ken Jeong during a taping of the sitcom "Hot In Cleveland" in March 2014. He played Park Ranger Alex Trebek. Over the course of his career, Alex has guest starred on countless shows including "Beverly Hills, 90210," "Seinfeld" and "How I Met Your Mother." He's also lent his voice to shows like "Rugrats, "The Simpsons," "Arthur" and "Pepper Ann."
Alex Trebek joined daughter Emily Trebek, an interior designer and builder, for an interview with "The Talk" host Sharon Osbourne during the daytime talk show's "Who's Your Daddy" week series in June 2014.
Like so many of us, Alex Trebek is a fan of the hit Broadway musical "Hamilton." He's seen here chatting with Gayle King and "Hamilton" creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda backstage at the Richard Rogers Theater in New York City in July 2015.
Aside from being an acclaimed game show host and occasional actor, Alex Trebek is also a philanthropist. In 2016, he donated $5 million to his alma mater, the University of Ottawa, to help fund the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue. Then, in 2017, he also funded the Alex Trebek Leadership Award at the university — an annual $10,000 grant given to a graduate with the highest distinction who is seen as a leader in his or her community. He's pictured here at the 2016 USO Gala in Washington, D.C., in October that year.
Oh, Canada! In June 2017, Alex Trebek attended the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation at the official residence of Canada's Consul General in Los Angeles. Though he became a naturalized American citizen in 1998, Alex remains a proud Canadian.
On a July 2017 episode of "To Tell the Truth" — the show he hosted from 1990 to 1991 — Alex Trebek joined Ashley Graham, Jenna Elfman and Donald Faison as a member of the celebrity panel.
Another major milestone for the Canadian pop culture icon? In April 2018, Alex Trebek and "Jeopardy!" were inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He's pictured here speaking on stage at the celebratory event.
All in good company! At the National Association of Broadcasters Broadcasting Hall of Fame dinner in April 2018, Alex Trebek was photographed alongside his fellow inductees: "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak, "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" producer Harry Friedman and "Wheel of Fortune" hostess Vanna White.
In March 2019, 78-year-old Alex Trebek announced that he'd been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. "Just like 50,000 other people in the United States each year, this week I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer," he said in a video shared with fans on social media before injecting some of his trademark humor. "Now, normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I'm going to fight this and I'm going to keep working, and with the love and support of my family and friends — and with the help of your prayers, also — I plan to beat the low survival-rate statistics for this disease. Truth told, I have to. Because under the terms of my contract I have to host 'Jeopardy!' for three more years." He's pictured here with Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America" in May 2019 speaking more about his cancer diagnosis.
At the Daytime Emmy Awards in May 2019, Alex Trebek accepted the outstanding game show host prize for the sixth time (the last time he'd won this award was in 2008). Fearful that he was only given the honor because he had announced his cancer diagnosis a few months prior, Alex — the most nominated game show host in Emmys history — admitted he wasn't a fan of sympathy votes. He went on to reference actress Sally Field's memorable 1985 Academy Awards acceptance speech. "Maybe I've been worrying about the wrong thing, and I should just do what Sally Field did in a different venue many, many years ago and look at this as a sign that you guys like me and that you value my work," he said to an adoring audience. "If that's the case, I can live with that." A year later at the 2020 Daytime Emmys, which were held virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic, Alex took home his seventh outstanding game show host award while "Jeopardy!" won for best game show, continuing its streak as the winningest game show in Emmys history.
Alex Trebek is pictured here alongside Pittsburgh Penguins Canadian captain Sidney Crosby at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas in June 2019. Despite being a Montreal Canadiens fan himself, Alex was all smiles next to the Canadian hockey sensation!
Jean Currivan Trebek joined husband Alex Trebek at the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award event honoring Denzel Washington in June 2019. A few months later, Jean — who celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary with Alex in April 2020 — confessed that, following his cancer diagnosis, the hardest thing is "when I see him in pain and I can't help him," she told ABC in a joint interview with her husband, who added, "It's always tough for the caretakers because she has to deal with her worrying for my wellbeing and also dealing with… I'm not always the most pleasant person to be around when I am experiencing severe pain and depression, and she has to tread lightly around me." In July 2020, Alex told "Good Morning America" that Jean had been a "saint" for getting him through the "difficult moments."
In January 2020, Alex Trebek hosted an ABC primetime special event featuring the three highest earning contestants in "Jeopardy!" history — Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer. Ken won "Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time" and took home its $1 million prize.
In March 2020 — one year after he announced his pancreatic cancer diagnosis — Alex Trebek took to Twitter to give fans an update on his health. The fact that he was still working and fighting was significant, as the one-year survival rate for the deadly disease is 18%. "If we — because so many of us are involved in this same situation — if we take it just one day at a time, with a positive attitude, anything is possible," Alex — seen here on a panel for ABC at the Winter Television Critics Association two months earlier in January 2020 — said in the heartfelt video. In July 2020, Alex revealed he'd been undergoing an experimental immunotherapy treatment that so far was working but told "Good Morning America" that if the pain got to be too much and his numbers headed in the wrong direction, he was "not going to go to any extraordinary measures to ensure my survival," which he told his family during a "tough" conversation. "They understand that there is a certain element regarding quality of life," he explained.
On July 21, 2020 — one day before his 80th birthday — Alex Trebek released a book, "The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life," from Simon & Schuster. "I want people to know a little more about the person they have been cheering on for the past year," he wrote in the memoir, which includes personal anecdotes and stories about marriage, parenthood, education, success, spirituality and philanthropy, never-before-seen photos, answers to the questions he's most often asked by "Jeopardy!" fans and more. The next day, he celebrated his 80th birthday. Three months later, Alex was gone.