In 1994, Sam Waterston joined the cast of the original NBC series "Law & Order," unaware that he'd be playing the role of district attorney Jack McCoy for the next 16 years, until the series wrapped in 2010. An accomplished actor, Waterston has starred in over 80 film and television productions during his impressive 50+ year career. For his critically acclaimed performance in the British film "The Killing Fields," he earned an academy nomination. Waterston, who studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and the American Actors Workshop, began his career in theater on the New York stage, appearing in multiple revivals of Shakespeare. He then made his debut in cinema in the 1967 film "Beware of the Butler." In 2010, Waterston received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; and in 2012, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. In addition to his work as an actor, Waterston is also a dedicated philanthropist. Over the years, he's actively supported organizations like Refugees International, Oceana, Meals on Wheels, and The United Way.

Before Waterston was seen in big Hollywood movies, he was performing on much smaller stages in New Haven, Connecticut. After completing high school, the actor enrolled at Yale University on a scholarship. As a Yale undergraduate with a love of Shakespeare, Waterston never imagined he would become a television or movie actor, but he did have a love for acting early on. First, he joined the drama society at Yale. Then, during his junior year, he studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, followed by a stint at the American Actors Workshop in Paris, where he was taught by director John Berry. Upon returning stateside, Waterston graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in French and history from Yale College in 1962.

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Waterston’s achievements were recognized by his alma mater in 2001, when Yale awarded the celebrated actor with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts. The ceremony, which included President George W. Bush also receiving an honorary degree, was just another occasion for a campus visit for Waterston, who has regularly returned to his college roots throughout the years. In 2000, for example, the actor was a guest speaker at a Pierson College master's tea. During the annual event, which was sponsored by Yale's Pierson College and The Yale Record, an undergraduate humor magazine, Waterston described how he first got hooked on acting while playing Lucky in a Yale production of "Waiting for Godot," before extolling the benefits of his college experiences. "The Yale base... has turned out to be very, very useful to me," he said.