BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As the final episodes of longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek air this week, a Birmingham native is reminiscing about her time on the show.
Amy Cheek-Fineburg was 19 years old when she heard her name announced on national television.
She was part of the show’s College Championship, representing Samford University in 1992.
“We had contestants that year from all over. From the southeast, there were folks from UNC Chapel Hill, LSU, from Harvard to Michigan State,” Cheek Fineburg said reflecting on her time on the show.
The host of that show America has come to love was, of course, Alex Trebek.
“His presence there made it such to where you didn’t feel all of the nervousness and the ‘oh my goodness, I’m on national TV feeling that you would have with other shows,” Cheek-Fineburg said reflecting on Trebek’s composure.
“He saw thousands upon thousands come through,” Cheek-Fineburg said. “But the fact that every one of us felt that we were a part of a family speaks to not only Alex but the whole ‘Jeopardy!’ team.”
Cheek-Fineburg came back to campus following her run to a mini-fan club people started associated her with “Jeopardy!”. So when Trebek died in November following a bout with pancreatic cancer, people reached out, knowing it likely hit her and hundreds of other contestants especially hard.
“Several people talked about how family members recognized there would be some grief,” she said. “My husband even was like ‘are you okay? Alex just passed.’ I’m like, ‘yeah I’m gonna need a minute.’ I’m gonna need a minute to grieve the passing of someone who played such an integral part in a highlight of my life.’”
Looking forward, Cheek-Fineburg says she’s betting a big wager that the show will pick the right person to fill Trebek’s shoes.
“There are so many candidates and social media certainly has all of their opinions of who should take over,” she said. “I just hope it’s someone who continues that sense of Jeopardy! being a place where knowing trivia and being smart is valued.”
“Jeopardy!” has announced Greatest of all time Tournament champion Ken Jennings will be serving as the interim host.
So while even though Cheek-Fineburg and other contestants lost the Canadian quizzing legend, she’s left with a trove of memories.
The last “Jeopardy!” episodes Trebek taped before he died will air each day this week at 3:30 p.m. on CBS 42.
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