All the Ways Late Jeopardy! Host Alex Trebek Gave Back During His Lifetime

The beloved game show host died on Sunday, over a year after he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer

Alex Trebek was best known as the host of Jeopardy!, but the star was also a dedicated philanthropist committed to giving back to his community.

Trebek died on Sunday at the age of 80, over a year after he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in March 2019. New episodes of Jeopardy! featuring the beloved TV personality will continue to air through Dec. 25. His final day in the studio was Oct. 29 — just 10 days before his death.

From donating land for conservation to building a homeless shelter, here are some of the ways the legendary game show host gave back.

Alex Trebek
Alex Trebek. Eric McCandless via Getty Images

Homeless Shelters

This past June, Trebek made a $500,000 donation to Los Angeles-based organization, Hope of Valley Rescue Mission, to help fund a shelter to support homeless seniors. His donation will help build a 50,000-square-foot facility located in the San Fernando Valley.

Trebek previously donated $100,000 to the same organization to help build a different shelter in North Hollywood. The new shelter is set to feature over 80 beds and bathrooms, with a laundry room and a commissary. A wing in the structure will be named after Trebek.

"Homelessness is a serious problem. I wanted to do something, so I researched this charity, visited their facility and personally saw the good work they are doing and wanted to help," Trebek told PEOPLE at the time. "I hope others will do what they can as well."

Pancreatic Cancer Research

Two months after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Trebek made a contribution to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) and spoke to the crowd at the organization's PurpleStride walk in Los Angeles.

"Survivorship is measured starting from the date you are diagnosed with cancer and on that scale, I'm a 62-day survivor," he told the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen, as survivors, we will help get the message across that there is hope — we will beat cancer."

University of Ottawa

Trebek also supported his alma mater, the University of Ottawa, throughout his life.

According to a statement from the current president of the university, Jacques Frémont, Trebek's gifts over the years founded the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue, the Innovation and Challenge Fund and the Distinguished Lecture Series and Leadership Award.

In 2016, Trebek was awarded the keys to the city of Ottawa for "his philanthropy and activism, his unrelenting commitment to higher education, and his steadfast loyalty to the University of Ottawa."

"Alex spent many years sharing the right questions with the world on Jeopardy!" Frémont said. "It is fitting that his gifts will allow future generations of students at uOttawa to continue asking the right questions, and finding important new answers that benefit us all."

Land for the Public

An avid conservationist, Trebek once purchased and donated a 62-acre plot of land between Los Angeles' Runyon and Nichols Canyons in the late 1990s.

He bought the land, now known as "Trebek Open Space," in 1998 for $2 million, according to CBS. He donated it to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority as public space. Today, the area features trails for hikers, bikers and horseback riders.

The Musk Ox

Trebek's favorite animal was the musk ox and he supported a nonprofit that worked to keep the Arctic species alive.

He once said on Jeopardy! that he liked them for their uniquely strong family dynamic, and "besides that, I like the way their furry coats wave in the breeze when they are running," according to CNN.

For over 30 years, Trebek worked with the Musk Ox Development Corporation, an organization based on the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, Alaska, that raises and cares for the animals, which became endangered in the 1950s due to a high demand for their meat and wool.

Trebek even became known as the "Herd Godfather" and personally signed every honorary adoption certificate sent to fellow supporters.

Mark Austin, the farm's executive director, once compared the game show host to his favorite animal, telling CNN, "Heart of a musk ox, tough as a musk ox."

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