Remembering Alex Trebek: A proud and lifelong Gee-Gee

Posted on Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Portrait of Alex Trebek

For more than 30 years, Alex Trebek was a steady weeknight presence in the living rooms of many North Americans. Hosting the popular trivia program Jeopardy!, Mr. Trebek became a dear friend to many – even to those who never had a chance to meet him. 

That’s because there was an undeniable warmth and generosity about Mr. Trebek. At the University of Ottawa, we had the good fortune to experience this first-hand. As an alumnus, Mr. Trebek was a proud supporter of his alma mater. Generously donating more than $10 million and many hours of his time to campus events and causes, Mr. Trebek was a Gee-Gee to the core and wore his uOttawa colours with pride. 

In the hours following Mr. Trebek’s death on November 8, 2020, hundreds of people reached out to the University of Ottawa through social media to express their grief and to celebrate the impact Mr. Trebek had on their lives, this institution and the community at large.  

“We have lost a dear friend and an exceptional alumnus who was an incredible driver of positive change,” said Jacques Frémont, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Ottawa. “Alex Trebek’s important legacy will live on at the University of Ottawa, and we will be eternally grateful to him.” 

Remembering his time at the uOttawa

After completing his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy at uOttawa in 1961, Mr. Trebek began his career in broadcasting, during which he covered national news and special events for radio and television. He was named host of Jeopardy! in 1984, a position he held for more than three decades. 

Alex Trebek received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa in 1997 and was awarded the Meritas Tabaret Award for Alumni Achievement, the highest award of excellence given to a uOttawa graduate, in 1998. These two honours are awarded to outstanding individuals who make a significant contribution to the University of Ottawa, to their profession and to society. He was also the honorary chair of the Campaign Cabinet.

The Alex Trebek Innovation and Challenge Fund, established in 2011 helped members of the uOttawa student community improve society in Canada and around the world. 

On May 5, 2015, the Alex-Trebek Alumni Pavilion was unveiled. The Pavilion is a meeting place for alumni and was made possible by a generous donation from Mr. Trebek.

Group photo at the inauguration of the Alex Trebek Hall

Inauguration of the Alex-Trebek Alumni Hall, May 2015.

That same year, the Alex-Trebek Lecture Series was created and quickly became a hallmark event during Homecoming. This series, created thanks to a gift by Mr. Trebek, enlists renowned speakers to discuss important issues related to public policy, social action, entrepreneurship, science and technology, and health and wellness.

Alex Trebek shaking hands with Christopher Kutarna

Alex Trebek and Christopher Kutarna, speaker at the 2019 Alex Trebek Distinguished Lecture Series.

In 2016, he established the Alex Trebek Leadership Award, which is open to all undergraduate students who demonstrate academic excellence and have distinguished themselves through volunteering and community service activities or initiatives.

Alex Trebek and Hunter Kelly

Alex Trebek with Hunter Kelly, first recipient of the Alex Trebek Leadership Award.

In 2017, a $5 million gift from Mr. Trebek allowed for the creation of The Alex Trebek Forum for Dialoguewhich aims to enrich and broaden public debate in Canada and shape public policy through research and outreach Opinion leaders, CEOs, government officials, foreign dignitaries and heads of state join tomorrow’s leaders to discuss substantive public policy issues. In 2019, additional funding from Mr. Trebek expanded the work of the Forum for Dialogue and provided 12 uOttawa Centres and Institutes with the opportunity to examine public policy, help update or create new laws and regulations and to safeguard the rights and wellbeing of citizens. 

Expert panel at the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue

Trebek hosted the 2017 Forum for Dialogue panel.

Mr. Trebek’s last visit to campus was during Homecoming in October 2019. He attended the Panda Match, the lecture series which bears his name, and the Transformation 2030 gala.

Alex Trebek and uOttawa President Jacques Frémont at the 2019 Panda Game

Alex Trebek with uOttawa President Jacques Frémont at 2019 Panda Game.

As we say our goodbyes to Mr. Trebek, we cannot thank him enough for his faithful commitment to our community.  

Please visit our Tribute to Alex Trebek page.

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