Alex and Jean Trebek Receive Fordham Founder’s Award

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COURTESY OF FORDHAM NEWS

Trebek accepts the Fordham Founder's Award with an inspiring speech about the 'power of prayer' in his life at the Bel-Air Country Club

By GUS DUPREE, News Editor

Members of the Fordham community, including the Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., gathered at the Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles on Jan. 7 to present iconic “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek and his wife Jean Trebek with the founder’s Award. 

Alex Trebek had been recording five “Jeopardy!” episodes the same day and was still wearing stage makeup when he received the award, which was a statuette of Fordham founder the Rev. Joseph Hughes, S.J. This was the first time that the founder’s Award was presented outside of New York City.

Roger A. Milici Jr., vice president for development and university relations, stated that the founder’s Award “recognizes individuals whose personal and professional lives reflect the highest aspirations of the University and its defining traditions, as an institution dedicated to wisdom and learning in the service of others.

“Awardees,” Milici continued, “are designated founder’s of Fordham for their personal achievements for their contributions to the life of the University, and for their support of founder’s Scholars. Fordham founder’s exemplify the renewal of the University’s identity and mission through successive generations of women and men for others.”

Alex and Jean Trebek have been actively involved in New York City philanthropy, founding the Alex Trebek Endowed Scholarship Fund in 2015, which provides financial aid to Fordham students from Harlem and East Harlem. Earlier in 2019, the Trebeks donated an additional $1 million to the fund.

Alex Trebek has been the host of the famous game show “Jeopardy!” since 1984 and has received numerous awards, including six Emmy Awards for Outstanding Show Host, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In his acceptance speech, Trebek emphasized the “power of prayer” which has helped him over the past year dealing with stage IV pancreatic cancer, as well as the outpouring of support he’s received since the diagnosis. Jean Trebek discussed how education, “and probably more importantly, higher education, is one of the linchpins of society.

Once we are allowed to have the support that leads to an educated mind,” Jean Trebek continued, “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.”

The Trebeks’ son Matthew is an alumnus of Fordham College at Rose Hill who graduated in 2013 with a degree in philosophy. 

McShane praised Trebek for his “quiet generosity” and invaluable role as a teacher to a wide audience. “As the host of ‘Jeopardy!’ he is our school teacher and we look forward to going to school every evening,” McShane said. 

“He teaches us about how to live each day with purpose, with focus, with determination, with love and without being obsessed with oneself,” McShane added.