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:

YouTube video

Photo courtesy It’s Academic