illustration of author Mitch Albom sitting next to Morrie Schwartz, who is lying in a bed

Tuesdays With Morrie

by Mitch Albom

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What is the relationship between Mitch and Morrie in Tuesdays with Morrie?

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In Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch and Morrie first met during Mitch's freshman year at Brandeis University. The year was 1976, and Morrie was Mitch's sociology professor.

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The relationship between Mitch and Morrie in this gem of a book is deep and multi-layered, as all true relationships are. On the one hand, it is a relationship between a valued teacher and a receptive student. Morrie had been a favorite professor of Mitch’s at Brandeis University in Boston some sixteen years prior. In the intervening years, Mitch had moved to Detroit and become a journalist. The two men had lost touch, but Mitch returns to Boston to see Morrie when he learns of Morrie’s ALS diagnosis. At this point the relationship deepens into a mentor-mentored relationship, a father-son type relationship, and a relationship between an older man of wisdom and a younger man ready to absorb that wisdom during fourteen weeks of visits together on Tuesdays.

But the relationship is so much more than all that. It is a relationship of friendship, honesty, trust, acceptance, and love. It is a relationship built on an examination of a life fully lived that includes transcendence and flaws, and the passing on of the wisdom that comes with it. It is a passing on of what is important, what needs to be paid attention to, and what is just detritus. And, as Mitch learns, although life ends, relationships do not.

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Mitch and Morrie enjoy several different types of relationships over the course of their acquaintance.  Initially, Morrie was Mitch's college professor.  Although the two were quite close, they grew apart as Mitch moved from the Boston area to Detroit and started a hectic adult life as a sports writer.

Years later, Mitch sees Morrie on an evening news program.  Morrie has permitted cameras to film his late-stage battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Mitch initially reaches back out to Morrie to rekindle a friendship, and perhaps with an eye toward approaching Morrie from a journalistic standpoint.  As they meet on Tuesdays, however, Morrie transforms back into his old teaching role.  In this "class", however, Morrie is not teaching Mitch about a specific content area, but is, rather, imparting life wisdom that he has gained over the years.  It is this wisdom that forms the crux of the book.

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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?”

"Yes?"

“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.

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How did Mitch and Morrie meet in Tuesdays With Morrie?

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"). 

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Where do Mitch and Morrie first meet in Tuesdays With Morrie?

In the book, Mitch reveals that he first met Morrie during his freshman year at Brandeis University in the spring of 1976.

Mitch remembers that he was younger than most of his peers, as he graduated high school a year early. Although Morrie was older than the rest of his professors, Mitch was drawn to the older man.

To start, Morrie was the first professor who asked Mitch how he wanted to be addressed. While checking off the attendance list during the first class, Morrie asked Mitch whether he preferred being called "Mitch" or "Mitchell."

After Mitch answered, Morrie expressed his hope that the younger man would one day come to think of him as a friend. That was an eventful comment from Morrie.

As time progressed, Morrie became a mentor and father figure to Mitch. The older man could see through Mitch's bravado and still accepted him without any preconditions. For his part, Mitch affected a tough exterior to hide his insecurities. Privately, he found Morrie a comforting presence.

Whenever possible, Mitch ate with Morrie in the cafeteria. He was delighted in the fact that, like him, Morrie was a sloppy eater. The older man's unassuming ways disarmed Mitch, and he began to call his professor "Coach."

Mitch relates that he always felt inclined to do two things whenever he was around Morrie: to hug him or to offer him a napkin.

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