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.