The journalism icon says her ‘Jeopardy!’ hosting tenure was a “bucket list” item, both for herself and in honor of her late husband.
For Katie Couric, hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ ticked a dozen lifetime-dream boxes all at once. Perhaps most prominently, Couric tells PEOPLE the experience “holds a special place in her heart” right next to her late husband, Jay Monahan.
“I love watching the show, and used to watch it all the time with my late husband [Jay Monahan] who was really good at it,” says the show’s first-ever female host. “I watch it now with my current husband [John Molner], but I think it has a special place in my heart because Jay loved it so much. And I think he would’ve been a really good contestant.”
Couric lost Monahan tragically young. The lawyer and NBC News legal analyst died of colon cancer at just 42-years-old. Raising their two daughters – Elinor (born 1991) and Caroline (born 1996) – in his absence is a large part of what led her to co-found Stand Up 2 Cancer. Losing her sister Emily to pancreatic cancer in 2002 was also a driving force. This is the same cancer that would take late ‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek’s life in 2020.
With all this in mind, Couric wanted to make her hosting tenure truly matter. As such, ‘Jeopardy!’ is set to match all contestants’ winnings in donations to her SU2C Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team.
Couric’s ‘Jeopardy!’ Tenure to Further Cancer Research in Honor of Late Husband, Sister, and Alex Trebek
“Jeopardy! will make a donation to @SU2C’s Pancreatic Dream Team based on the cumulative winnings of the contestants that compete during @katiecouric’s two-week guest host appearance!” the gameshow announced on Twitter this March. The caption comes alongside a clip of Couric’s first episode and introduction as host.
“Welcome to ‘Jeopardy!,’ everyone. It is such a thrill to be here guest hosting a show I’ve watched and loved for years,” Couric begins in her first night of hosting. “And of course, a real honor to help out as all of us recover from the loss of the truly irreplaceable Alex Trebek,” she continues.
“I’m really excited to announce that ‘Jeopardy!’ will be matching the winnings from each show I guest host and donating that amout to the Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team from Stand Up to Cancer,” the guest host reveals with a huge smile. “So thank you, ‘Jeopardy!’”
“Now let’s have some fun!” she smiles to her first set of contestants. And fun they had.
In fact, “It was so much fun,” the host tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “First of all, the team behind the scenes is amazing. I think they’re the unsung heroes of the whole operation. They work so hard, they are so smart and they were incredibly welcoming. I was a nervous wreck, honestly, before I came to the studio, but they put me at ease right away.”
Such good times were the cherry on top of her worthwhile cause, too. Couric says it was destiny to be able to both host the show and donate to cancer research at the same time.
“It was kismet in terms of my doing something that was on my bucket list, and being able to do good for cancer research,” the ‘Jeopardy!’ host continues. “It was a real twofer.”