Jeopardy! fans around the world are mourning the passing of longtime host Alex Trebek, who died on Nov. 8 at age 80. According to The New York Times, Trebek had hosted the show consistently since 1984, missing only one episode during that time—on April Fools’ Day in 1997, when he swapped places with the host of Wheel of Fortune as a gag.
Many Wesleyans had the opportunity to compete on Jeopardy! over the years. Below, some reflect on their experiences and share remembrances of Trebek.
J.R. Mannetta ’13 competed on Jeopardy! in January 2020.
When you go on Jeopardy! you don’t actually speak with Alex until the episode is recording and they do your interview segment. Which is my way of saying beyond that conversation I didn’t interact with Alex much. He does do Q&A during commercial breaks and despite obviously not being at 100 percent physically he was still very much with it mentally. He still had a very quick wit and is bitingly funny.
I watched Jeopardy! religiously from high school to now and I can’t fathom what the show will look like without him.
Erhard Konerding MALS ’82 retired as a documents librarian in Wesleyan’s Olin Library in 2015. He joined the University staff in 1972 and earned an MALS from Wesleyan in 1982. He was on the show in May 1994.
Contestants now take an online test to qualify, but back in the 1990s you would go to one of Merv Griffin’s casinos in Atlantic City and take a 10-question test. If you got enough questions right—I think it was seven or eight—they’d ask you back for a 50-question test and then for an audition. I went down to Atlantic City several times to take those tests. One day, I was sitting in the Star and Crescent at Alpha Delt and the phone rang. They asked me to come out to Hollywood and record the show.
When you film Jeopardy!, you show up at the studio in the morning with two changes of clothes. I was able to sit in the audience and watch until it was my turn. That first night, I was in second place going into the final question, and was able to bet strategically to end the night in first place. The second night, I was in second place but the third-place person was close behind me. I was doing the math frantically, and they finally said, “Erhard, we need a number from you.” My Jeopardy! career ended that night, but I won a trip to Hawaii.