Host of It’s Academic, Mac McGarry, passes away at age 87

The host of the world's longest running game show, It's Academic, passed away last week. Photo: It's Academic (Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON, December 16, 2013 — The longtime host of local game show, It’s Academic, Mac McGarry, passed away last week at the age of 87. McGarry had been the host of the show since it first premiered in 1961 until his retirement in 2011.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, It’s Academic is the longest running quiz show in the world. In comparison, the well-known quiz show, Jeopardy!, began three years later in 1964.

Notable former contestants include George Stephanopoulos, political commentator; Donald E. Graham, chairman and chief executive officer of The Washington Post Company; Hillary Rodham (Clinton) who acted as an “alternate”; and actress Sandra Bullock was once on the show as a cheerleader.

According to the It’s Academic webpage, there are notable trivia about the show:

“Several special It’s Academic programs have taken place at the State Department, where some of the questions were asked by then Secretary of State Colin Powell…

“Giant Food sponsored several It’s Academic celebrity specials for charity. One pitted professional Redskins football players against their coaches against the sports writers and commentators that covered them. Another featured Republican members of the U.S. Senate versus Democratic Senators versus the media…

“Political commentator Cokie Roberts landed her first job in TV on the production staff of It’s Academic.”

The Executive Producer of It’s Academic, Susan Altman, had this to say:

“Mac McGarry made ‘It’s Academic’ what it is today. He was our host for 50 years, and was probably the only game show host in television history who would occasionally burst into song in the middle of the show. And what you saw on TV was the real Mac McGarry–funny, smart, knowledgeable, and a joy to work with. He was a Washington institution, and he set the standard–not just professionally—but as a human being as well. All of us who knew and worked with Mac will miss him.”

A biography of McGarry on the It’s Academic webpage says the following, “Mac McGarry joined NBC as a staff announcer in 1950. Some of his first assignments included announcing the start of the Korean War and introducing President Truman from the White House. He has also hosted numerous talk shows over the years, including ‘In Our Town,’ the first weekly program in color.

“As host of Washington’s It’s Academic, Mac has challenged more than 20,000 contestants and asked more than 200,000 questions. He is known for his humor, wide-ranging knowledge, meticulous pronunciation and delivery, and his readiness to break into song every now and then.”

According to Comcast Sportsnet, Mac McGarry is survived by his wife Babette and his four children.

Disclaimer: The author of this article competed on the show as a student.


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Rahat Husain

Rahat Husain has been working as a columnist since 2013 when he joined the Communities. With an interest in America and Islam, Rahat is a prolific writer on contemporary and international issues.


In addition to writing for the Communities, Rahat Husain is an Attorney based in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. He is the Director of Legal and Policy Affairs at UMAA Advocacy. For the past six years, Mr. Husain has worked with Congressmen, Senators, federal agencies, think tanks, NGOs, policy institutes, and academic experts to advocate on behalf of Shia Muslim issues, both political and humanitarian. UMAA hosts one of the largest gatherings of Shia Ithna Asheri Muslims in North America at its annual convention.


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