The History of Reach For The Top

"Reach for the Top" began life as a television quiz game for high school students, modeled on the British television series "Top of the Form". First played on the local CBC outlet in Vancouver in 1961, it was produced by Dick St. John and hosted by Terry Garner. The first National Finals of Reach For The Top were played in 1965, and it became a national T.V. show in 1966, with separate local productions across the country and national finals series played by the regional winners. Teams from Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnepeg, and Toronto played that year, with the finals taped in Montreal and hosted by Bill Guest. For over four decades, thousands of students have played "Reach for the Top".

In 1968, an experimental and international series of the game called "Trans-World Top Team", was developed as a joint production of the BBC and CBC. Twelve Canadian students from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal went to the UK for five games, and then five games were played in Canada. Geoffrey Wheeler and Alex Trebek were the quizmasters and Sandy Stewart was the producer for the CBC. In 1969, Paul Russell became writer and editor for Reach For The Top and he has continued as National Editor to this day.

A French language version of the show was developed by Radio Canada in the 1970's as "Genies en Herbe". In the early 1980's, the top "Genie" team was invited to the Reach National Finals, for a bilingual competition against french-speaking students on "Reach" teams. "Genies en Herbe" has been discontinued by the CBC. There is a francophone "Genie" still being played in Belgium!

In 1984 "Reach" became a private show under the aegis of producer Sandy Stewart and was syndicated to independent broadcasters, a practice that continues today across the nation. Broadcasters have included Bragg Communications, Winnipeg Videon, Rogers Cable, TVO, and CFPL London. Our current national broadcaster is Canadian Learning Television (CLT) with studios in Edmonton, Alberta.

Also in 1984, Sandy and Patricia Stewart joined with Paul Russell and Robert Jeffrey of Paulus Productions to produce the "Schoolreach" subscription program played out in schools. Without the glare of television lights, the "Schoolreach" version of "Reach for the Top" has been played by thousands of students for over two decades, with its top teams invited to play "Reach for the Top" on television. The National Championship trophy, designed by sculptor Dora de Pedery Hunt, is the eagerly-sought prize, the pinnacle of "Reach" achievement.

For over four decades, "Reach for the Top" has been a significant part of Canadian culture, even the subject of the CBC T.V. movie "Pray for me, Paul Henderson"... a coming-of-age movie that linked "Reach for the Top" and Paul Henderson's winning goal in the eighth game of the 1972 Canada-Soviet hockey series.

In 1995, Sandy and Pat Stewart retired from Reach For The Top. Reach For The Top and Schoolreach are owned by Reach For The Top Inc. under the direction of Paul Russell.


Just a few of those who have played an important role in the development of Reach For The Top over the years