City Desk

It’s Academic’s Mac McGarry Dies at 87

Sad news for anyone who grew up as a bookish nerd in the D.C. area anywhere in the last half-century: Longtime It's Academic host Mac McGarry died Thursday at his Potomac home. He was 87.

McGarry had retired from the high school quiz show two years ago for health reasons, but only after five decades of hosting the Saturday morning battles of wit on Channel 4. It was the only local broadcast I ever remember that featured cheerleaders waving pom-poms to celebrate recollections of American history or obscure geography. And maybe winning the It's Academic title wasn't quite as prized as, oh, winning any random football game, but still, McGarry's show was special. (Read Washington City Paper's 2001 profile of McGarry here.)

"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," It's Academic executive producer Susan Altman said in a statement. "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."

Watch his final broadcast here:

Photo courtesy It's Academic

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  • Izzy

    R.I.P. Mr. McGarry

    This outward jock but closet nerd remembers you well. I watched with pride as my high school participated on your show my junior year wishing I had the opportunity. I watched with scorn every time TJ or Blair got a correct answer.

    But as the writer suggests playing football provided me with the scholarship that allowed me to graduate with a COSC degree and no debt.

    Life is funny.

  • Jes’ sayin

    MacMcGarry, Joe Danzansky, and Iz Cohen did more for education and academics in the DMV in their lives than ten thousand politicians, administrators, and program hustlers.

    The program never had huge ratings and wasn't exactly a money maker for the Giant Supermarket chain, but Joe and Iz cared about their community and its kids, and the program has been a wonderful gift to all of us. Viewers were loyal, appreciative, and of all ages.

    Mac also took his job seriously, was a great host. He helped many a young scholar get over camera fright in order that they could relax, play a game, and bring honor to their school.

    R.I.P. Mr McGarry, and thanks for everything.

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