Famed actor John Astin is best known for his work as Gomez Addams, the lovable, slightly kooky patriarch of the original Addams Family television series, which aired from 1964-1966. The son of a physicist, Astin was born in 1930 in Baltimore, Maryland. Early on, he had aspirations of becoming a renowned mathematician, but Astin found his real passion in acting. He started his career with theater, but ultimately made his mark on TV, films, and even some voice work. Astin also received an Academy Award nomination for his short film "Prelude," a film that he wrote, produced, and directed. During his long career as a performer, he appeared in more than 40 films and in such TV shows as "The Flying Nun," "Batman," "Bonanza," and "The Odd Couple." At one time, the legendary actor was also married to the Academy Award-winning actress Patty Duke and the couple had a son, actor Sean Astin.
Astin came to Johns Hopkins University not as a freshman, but as a transfer student from Washington and Jefferson College. A Baltimore native, the move to Hopkins should have made things easier on the young man, yet there were already strong indications that he was struggling to find focus and purpose in his college studies. To his father's dismay, Astin became even more feckless on the JHU campus, even losing interest in mathematics altogether. Looking for alternative paths, he then became a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, before making the fateful decision to join what was then called the "Johns Hopkins Play Shop." This decision was the final nail in the coffin of Astin's mathematics ambitions, and after formally changing majors at JHU in 1952, he received his Bachelor of Arts in Drama.
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Almost 50 years later, Astin made a rather heroic return to his alma mater to teach acting and directing as a visiting professor. Four years later, he was named Director of the Theater Arts and Studies Department and the Homewood Professor of the Arts. During this time, he also created the Theater Arts minor at JHU, while also teaching an average of eight classes a year and using his free time to direct student productions. As a result, Astin is credited with revitalizing the university's theater program, which now enrolls about 140 students each semester. In 2011, university leaders announced that the theater in the Merrick Barn was being renamed the John Astin Theatre to commemorate his significant contributions to the art of drama, while also enriching the Johns Hopkins campus for all.