Fond memories of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek by three Alabamians

Amy Cheek Fineburg participated in the 1992 College Jeopardy! shows. She represented Samford (2nd to Trebek’s left in the photo). Photo via Amy Cheek Fineburg

Last week,  Jeopardy! Host Alex Trebek passed away after a long brave and public battle with pancreatic cancer.

We already miss him dearly.

As a tribute to Trebek, Bham Now gathered a few stories from local Birmingham area residents and natives about their encounters with the legendary and beloved host of Jeopardy! 

Here are their stories.

Amy Cheek Fineburg College Jeopardy! Contestant

When Bham Now asked for Alex Trebek stories, a couple of our local readers here in Birmingham directed us to Amy Cheek Fineburg. We connected with her via Facebook Messenger and received this wonderful story about her Jeopardy!  experience with Trebek.

“I was a contestant on Jeopardy! College Tournament in 1992, representing Samford. I had been active in high school scholar’s bowl and college bowl trivia, so being on Jeopardy! was a dream for a while. 

I taped my episodes in February of 1992. They taped 5 episodes in a day, so we spent two days in the studio. We spent time before competing in a waiting room watching bad movies (nothing they would ask Jeopardy! questions about). I played the first round against students from St. John’s College and Michigan State, winning that round. I then played students from William and Mary and UNC Chapel Hill, losing that round by $1 to the guy from William and Mary, who went on to win the tournament.

Alex was so warm and kind to us. He made us all feel so comfortable as we played. He mainly made small talk with us in between breaks, helping us feel less nervous because nervous people didn’t make for good TV. He noticed everything that was going on. I answered a question about Michigan in my first round, and Alex noticed that the guy from Michigan State – Dave Ellis – was put out that I beat him to the buzzer on a question about this home state, and he commented on it, making the moment all the more entertaining. He was truly a professional and perfect for that job.

Being on Jeopardy! was a highlight of my life. I’m still friends with several of the folks I competed against. We’ve all been sharing and grieving together the loss of an icon.

Sarah Parcak’s Chance Meeting with Trebek

Screenshot of the $400 Jeopardy answer that appeared on the March 18, 2019 show about UAB’s Sarah Parcak.

Imagine being a Jeopardy! Answer. Well, UAB professor, archaeologist and TED Prize winner Sarah Parcak was the subject of one in 2019. Here was the answer. 

While writing this story, Sarah published a series of tweets about her own personal encounter with Alex Trebek back in 2013 at the celebration of National Geographic’s 125th anniversary. 

Here is a screenshot of the series of tweets she republished  telling her story.

Sarah Parcak, author of Archaeology from Space. Photo courtesy of GlobalXplorer

Bessemer Native Lori McDonough’s Daughter on Kid’s Jeopardy!

Alex Trebek with Allyson McDonough on Kid’s Jeopardy in 2002. Photo via Lori McDonough

In 2002, Lori McDonough, 11 year old daughter Allyson was chosen to compete in Kid’s Jeopardy!

A friend of Bham Now publisher Cindy Martin, Lori is from Bessemer. She, graduated from Jess Lanier High School in 1981 and has lived all over the country since high school. Presently, she resides in Washington state.

“When we all met Alex Trebek, he was extremely congenial – very kind. He took pictures with all the kids and took the time talking to the kids and parents. He made us all feel important. My daughter had a great time. 

When she was on Jeopardy! they always ask the kids what are your goals in life?  Allyson said that she wanted to be the first woman President and fashion designer.

Trebek laughed and he responded  – “good luck with that!”

Lori McDonough

Today, Lori’s daughter Allyson is a social worker in Seattle. 

Celebrate Alex Trebek’s Life

Got your own Alex Trebek- Jeopardy! Stories? Send them to us at or tag us on social media.

  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.