‘M*A*S*H’ Star Said the Most Important Thing He Learned in College Wasn’t a ‘Field of Study’

by Chris Haney
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In 2016, one M*A*S*H star revealed that the most important thing he learned during his university days had nothing to do with any particular field of study.

Alan Alda sat down for an interview with Stony Brook University for a segment they called “Five Questions With…” The actor, director, and author opened up about his career while also touching on his love for science and the importance of education. In fact, the M*A*S*H actor was a visiting professor in the school’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.

The actor hosted PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers for 11 years. Alda spoke with scientists on the show and helped them relate to the viewers. As the center’s website describes, “By building personal connections, Alan got scientists out of lecture mode and into conversation.” This idea became the basis of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, which is part of Stony Brook’s School of Journalism.

As inspired as the M*A*S*H star is by the subject, that nor any other field of study stuck with him. At least not as much as other lessons learned while in college. When speaking about his college experience, Alda said learning to “think clearly” and use “language well” were the most important lessons learned while in college.

“The thing that college did for me, it wasn’t introducing me to a field of study or anything like that. What college did the most for me, the most good it did for me, was to teach me to think clearly and to use language well.”

‘M*A*S*H’ Actor Alan Alda Opens Up About Parkinson’s Diagnosis

A couple of years later, Alan Alda shared with the public that he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He revealed the news during an appearance on CBS This Morning. He told the hosts that doctors diagnosed him more than three years ago. Yet he’s lived a happy life since and is at peace with it.

The “Hawkeye” Pierce actor from M*A*S*H looked to another actor for guidance. Back to the Future actor Michael J. Fox has lived with Parkinson’s since 1991, and has dealt with the disease for decades. The pair discussed the disease together at length, and Alda shared some thoughts about Fox and their chat.

“This guy [Fox] is so amazing,” Alda said during a 2018 interview with radio station WTOP. “We shared some stuff together because three or four years ago [in 2015], I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s too, so we were sharing notes.”

“This guy has had it since he was 29. He’s conducted a life where he’s found a way to keep acting even though he’s got this progressive disease,” Alda added. “His communication is so good that he’s raised almost a billion dollars to find a cure for Parkinson’s. … He’s really inspiring to listen to — and funny.”

Outsider.com