Pride in Heritage: Alan Alda
Many Americans of Italian descent have made great contributions to our nation. What makes me even prouder is when they are favorite sons and daughters of New Jersey. One favorite of mine that recently celebrated a birthday is Alphonso Joseph D’Abruzzo; better known as Alan Alda.
Mr. D’Abruzzo has starred in several of my favorite movies, including The Four Seasons, The Paper Lion, and Same Time Next Year. And of course he is beloved by millions for his portrayal of Hawkeye in M*A*S*H.
He spent much of his early life traveling, as his father performed, but made Leonia, New Jersey his long-term home. During the run of M*A*S*H, he would fly home on weekends to see his family. He even built in some of his favorite Jersey spots into the show, such as Sol & Sol Deli in the nearby town of Englewood.
Like many who go into show business, he needed an easy-to-remember name. Mr. D’Abruzzo decided on a unique approach when developing a stage name and decided on “Alda,” a combination of the first parts of his first and last names.
Mr. D’Abruzzo’s paternal grandfather was Antonio “Anthony” D’Abruzzo, born in Sant’Agata de’ Goti, Province of Benevento, Campania. His paternal grandmother was Frances Tumillo, born in New York, to Italian parents.
In 2009, Mr. D’Abruzzo expanded his life-long fascination with science to help found the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, where he is a Visiting Professor. He works to develop programs that enable scientists to better communicate with the public. The Center was the result of collaboration between Mr. D’Abruzzo, Stony Brook, and Stony Brook’s School of Journalism, with Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
It is safe to say this American of Italian descent has made multiple meaningful contributions to our society.