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‘Alex is our Mr. Rogers’: BYU professor, ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant honors show host

Christine Hurt’s time with Alex Trebek was brief. But she still felt a strong connection to the beloved “Jeopardy!” host. And she felt a deep sadness when he died on Nov. 8 at the age of 80

Christine Hurt, a BYU law professor, is pictured with Alex Trebek in 2019. Hurt recently paid tribute to Trebek, who died on Nov. 8 at the age of 80.
Christine Hurt

In person, Christine Hurt didn’t spend a lot of time with Alex Trebek.

At the start of her one and only “Jeopardy!” game that aired last December, the BYU law professor briefly chatted with Trebek about being the two-time winner of The New Yorker’s cartoon caption contest.

Throughout the game, Trebek made fun of Hurt’s odd wagers on Daily Doubles (each of her wagers represented her three kids’ birthdays: $920, $1,118 and $624).

And then the Final Jeopardy question came and it was over. Hurt finished in second.

“It was really like skiing downhill and you’ve never skied before and it’s a double black (run) and people are watching and it’s on television!” Hurt previously told the Deseret News. “It goes so quickly.”

Hurt’s time with Trebek was brief. But she still felt a strong connection to the beloved host. And she felt a deep sadness when he died on Nov. 8 at the age of 80.

“I think to all former contestants, Alex is our Mr. Rogers: the constant positive force every day,” Hurt shared in a message with me on Twitter. “On one (or more) of the biggest days of our life, Alex was there in person. The loss is real, even for those of us who only had a small interaction with him.”

Hurt’s love of “Jeopardy!” and Trebek started with her mom, who made it a priority to watch the quiz show even as she neared the end of her life.

“When she was on hospice, she and her caregiver, they would watch ‘Jeopardy!’ every day, and during the first commercial break, they would each bet on someone to win,” Hurt previously told the Deseret News. “That was their little ritual every day.”

Today, the “Jeopardy!” fandom carries on in Hurt’s family, with her husband and three kids.

It’s hard to imagine anyone who’s not Trebek taking on the role of “Jeopardy!’ host, but Hurt said she’s open to the suggestions of Ken Jennings and LeVar Burton that have been floating around. She also said she wouldn’t mind seeing “Crash Course” co-host John Green or 20-day “Jeopardy!” champ Julia Collins fill the position.

“I hope that the show does not transition to the ‘host is the star’ model, with a celebrity using the format as a variety show,” she wrote in an email to the Deseret News. “The secret sauce of Alex is his being present and in control without having to be the star. The contestants are treated as the stars. His occasional moments of levity and personality were wonderful because they were occasional.”

“Jeopardy!’ episodes with Trebek as host will continue to run through Christmas Day, the Deseret News reported.