• A painting of Alex Trebek

    Illustration: Robert Carter/Canadian Geographic

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer but says he intends to fight the disease.

In a video posted to the Jeopardy! website Wednesday, Trebek said his decision to go public with the news is “in keeping with my longstanding policy of being open and transparent with our Jeopardy! fan base.” With the characteristic good humour that has made him a beloved television fixture for 35 years, Trebek said he will continue his hosting duties as he undergoes treatment:

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! So help me. Keep the faith and we’ll win. We’ll get it done. Thank you.

Almost immediately, fans began pouring out messages of support and encouragement on social media. The news hits especially close to home for staff and Fellows of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, of which Trebek is Honorary President and a long-time supporter.

“It is impossible to overstate the importance of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek to [the RCGS],” CEO John Geiger said. “He has received two Society medals, as well as being named our Honorary President, effectively serving as the Society’s inspirational leader. His incredible support also made it possible for RCGS to make 50 Sussex our new headquarters … I hope you will join me and all of us at RCGS in praying for the quick and full recovery of this great Canadian, great friend of geography and great gentleman.”

Trebek, a native of Sudbury, Ont., has been an international household name since first appearing on Jeopardy!’s 1984 season — but his support for student programs and humanitarian work has gone all but unknown to millions of his fans. “I love working with young people,” he has said on more than one occasion, “and seeing how bright these young geographers are.”

He told finalists in the Canadian Geographic Challenge that to understand and react to current events — from elections to environmental disasters to war — we must have a strong grasp of the geography of our country, our continent, our planet: “All events are geographic,” he says. “They affect us directly.”

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Alex Trebek named Honorary President of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society