Jeopardy host Alex Trebek and his wife, Jean, pose after receiving Fordham University’s Founders’ Award at a Jan. 7 reception in Los Angeles. CNS photo/Kait McKay, Fordham University

Trebek counts on ‘power of prayer’

By 
  • January 24, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- From his childhood days in Sudbury, Ont., through to his battle with cancer, Alex Trebek has believed in the power of prayer.

The long-time host of TV’s most iconic game show, Jeopardy, and his wife Jean received Fordham University’s Founders’ Award at a Jan. 7 reception in Los Angeles.

According to Tom Stoelker writing in Fordham News, this was the first time the award — which he described as “weighty statuette” of Fordham founder Archbishop John Hughes — has been presented outside of New York City.

Trebek, 79, has been at the helm of Jeopardy for 36 years. He has continued to host the show even as he has undergone chemotherapy for stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

A year ago, he was told he has the disease. He responded well to chemotherapy and at one point announced he was “near remission,” but in August he said he had to resume a course of chemo treatment.

“If there’s one thing I have discovered in the past year, it is (the) power of prayer,” he said in accepting the Fordham award. “I learned it from the Jesuits when I was a kid, I learned it from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate when I was in boarding school.”

Trebek, who was raised a Catholic, attended Jesuit schools in Sudbury before going to boarding school in Ottawa. He later graduated from the University of Ottawa while pursuing a television career, first with the CBC, where he hosted Reach for the Top, a quiz show for teams of high school students. 

He headed to the U.S. in 1973, but has returned frequently to Canada to host shows and events, as well as raise millions for the University of Ottawa. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2017.

In her remarks at the Fordham event, Jean Trebek said, “We understand how education, and probably more importantly, higher education, is one of the linchpins of society.”

She referenced the scholarship she and her husband established at Fordham about five years ago, saying that seeing how a scholarship can change a life has been “awe-inspiring” for her and her husband.

“Once we are allowed to have the support that leads to an educated mind, that mind has the opportunity to be open and curious which allows for a fuller understanding and appreciation of our humanity both individually and collectively,” Jean Trebek said.

Jesuit Fr. Joseph M. McShane, president of Fordham, said Alex Trebek is “a brilliant man who is the nation’s schoolteacher.” 

If people think the Jeopardy host is a good man, “you don’t know the half of it,” the priest said. “He’s better than you think.” McShane called him a man of “quiet generosity.”

The Trebeks have two children, both of whom they sent to Jesuit schools. Daughter Emily is a 2015 graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Son Matthew graduated from Fordham College at Rose Hill in 2013. 

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