How did Mitch and Morrie meet in Tuesdays With Morrie?
Columnist Mitch Albom authored one of the more moving and inspirational nonfiction books in recent memory. Tuesdays with Morrie is Albom’s memoir of college, of his post-college struggles to find gainful employment, and of his interrupted-but-ultimately-enduring relationship with Morrie Schwartz, his “favorite professor.” The hyphenated phrase “interrupted-but-ultimately-enduring relationship” is a reference to Albom’s failure to abide an initial pledge to his professor to remain in contact following the former’s graduation from Brandeis University. Albom concedes this failure but reconnects with Morrie Schwartz after seeing the elderly, dying scholar interviewed on television’s Nightline program. It is this chain of events that leads to Albom’s decision to spend the time Schwartz has remaining on this earth with his old professor—an experience that proves rewarding for both.
Early in Tuesdays with Morrie, in a section titled “A Professor’s Final Course: His Own Death,” Albom describes his initial encounter with Schwartz:
It is our first class together, in the spring of 1976. I enter Morrie’s large office and notice the seemingly countless books that line the wall, shelf after shelf. Books on sociology, philosophy, religion, psychology.
While Schwartz is approachable and kind in his demeanor, it is during the first of Albom’s classes with Morrie that he can readily perceive the nature of the professor who came to mean so much to him:
“Mitchell?” Morrie says, reading from the attendance list.
I raise a hand.
“Do you prefer Mitch? Or is Mitchell better?”
I have never been asked this by a teacher. I do a double take at this guy in his yellow turtleneck and green corduroy pants, the silver hair that falls on his forehead. He is smiling. "Mitch," I say. "Mitch is what my friends called me."
“Well, Mitch it is then,” Morrie says, as if closing a deal. “And, Mitch?”
“I hope that one day you will think of me as your friend.”
As noted, Morrie Schwartz will indeed become a friend to his student. It is only after the interruption during which Albom attempts to define himself that the friendship is rekindled; it is only then that the newspaper columnist learns the most valuable lessons from his dying mentor.
Mitch and Morrie met in the spring of 1976. Morrie was a professor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and Mitch was a student in one of his classes. There were "only a dozen or so students" there when Mitch walked into the classroom. Mitch was in the process of considering dropping the class because "it (would) not be easy to cut a class this small" when Morrie called him by his full name, Mitchell, as he read from the roll sheet. When Mitch raised his hand, Morrie asked him if he preferred to be called "Mitch" or "Mitchell". Mitch had never been asked this by a teacher before, and had replied that "Mitch (was) what my friends called me". Morrie responded with a smile, "Well, Mitch it is, then...I hope that one day you will think of me as your friend".
During his two years at Brandeis, Mitch took every class that Morrie taught. At his graduation in the spring of 1979, he introduced "Morrie Schwartz, (his) favorite professor" to his parents. Mitch had bought Morrie a present, "a tan briefcase with his initials on the front". He had not wanted to forget Morrie, and suspects that he did not want Morrie to forget him either. At Mitch's graduation, Morrie had asked him to keep in touch, and Mitch remembers that, when he left that day, Morrie had been crying. Caught up in life, Mitch did not kept in touch with his old professor ("The Curriculum" and "The Audiovisual").