At the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Alan Alda, visiting professor in the School of Journalism and actor, was the 55th recipient of the Life Achievement Award, the most prestigious award given for both career achievement and humanitarian efforts.
Though best known for his work on the TV series “M*A*S*H,” Alda has an impressively long filmography. Throughout his career, he has played just as many roles on screen as off — he has been an actor, screenwriter, director, author and an activist.
Born Alphonso D’Abruzzo in New York City, Alda gravitated toward acting at a young age. He started acting on stage in the 1950s and would make his Broadway debut in 1959. His father, Robert Alda, was also an actor and he was exposed to acting at a young age. Later, his father and brother would make appearances with him on “M*A*S*H.” Alda was struck with a case of polio at the age of 10, but he fully recovered and the illness did not prevent him from continuing with his passion.
In 1957, he married his wife Arlene Weiss, with whom he had three children. He moved to Hollywood acting in 1963, but his career truly kicked off with the premiere of “M*A*S*H,”which ran from 1972 to 1983, where Alda was the only regular character to appear in every one of 251 episodes.
Alda was nominated for 34 Emmy Awards throughout his career. For his work on the series, in which he played Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce, or “Hawkeye” Pierce, Alda was honored with 25 Emmy Award nominations, of which he won five. He was also the first from the show to win Emmys for acting, writing and directing all for his work on “M*A*S*H.”
Alda’s successful career continued to blossom after the series ended. He starred in films, such as “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989), “Manhattan Murder Mystery” (1993) and “The Aviator” (2004). In television, he’s made appearances in shows such as “The West Wing” (2004-2006), “30 Rock” (2009-2010) and “The Blacklist” (2013-2014).
In 1993, Alda agreed to host the PBS series “Scientific American Frontiers,” and he remained the program’s host until 2005. For 13 years, Alda interviewed hundreds of scientists, eventually, developing a passion for communicating science. Thus, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science was born at Stony Brook University in 2009.
As part of the School of Journalism, the center uses improvisational theater exercises to teach scientists and students how to connect with the public and those outside of their discipline. The Alan Alda Center, located on the fourth floor of the Melville Library, designs programs and workshops to aid STEM and medical communication and offers an undergraduate course for communicating science.
In 2017, Alda created the Alda Communication Training Company, which works in conjunction with the Alan Alda Center to train scientists in the field of communication.
On July 31, 2018, he announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years prior, but it hasn’t slowed him down at all — he still takes boxing lessons and often plays tennis. He still starred in two TV series in 2018 (“The Good Fight” and “Ray Donovan”) and lent his voice in the narration of the TV movie, “The Emperor’s Newest Clothes.”
In addition to the Life Achievement Award, Alda has an impressive collection of awards and nominations behind him. He has been awarded six Emmys in acting, directing and writing, including Actor of the Year in 1974 for “M*A*S*H.” He is also a six-time Golden Globe winner. Add in his Directors Guild of America awards, honorary degrees from several universities, an induction into the Television Hall of Fame in 1994 and even more nominations, it’s easy to see the impact Alda has had on the world of entertainment.