Mitch Albom & Background

Mitch Albom was born in Passaic, New Jersey, in 1958, though he spent the greater part of his youth in Philadelphia. In 1979, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where met and studied under his beloved professor, Morrie Schwartz, the title character of Tuesdays With Morrie. In 1982, Albom was awarded a Masters degree from Columbia University in New York. After failed stints as an amateur boxer and nightclub musician, Albom began his career as a sports journalist, writing articles for newspapers such as the The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Detroit Free Press where he was employed from 1985 until his reunion with Morrie in 1995. Albom also has his own nationally syndicated radio show, Monday Sports Albom.

Prior to Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom had authored two bestselling sports books. He was the co-author of the autobiography of the legendary University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, called Bo: Life, Laughs, and Lessons of a College Football Legend (1989). He also wrote a book the starting players of the 1992 and 1993 Michigan mens basketball team, called Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, The American Dream (1993).

In 1995, Albom began gathering notes for his book, Tuesdays With Morrie, which documents his and Morrie's discussions on the meaning of life which they hold each Tuesday of every week in Morrie's home. Albom claims to have written the book to offset Morrie's severe medical expenses, and has said in interviews that the profits from the two-year bestseller are divided between himself and the Schwartz family.

Since the enormous success of Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom has continuned to publish both nonfiction books and novels on a steady basis, including The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2003), For One More Day (2006), The First Phone Call from Heaven (2013), and The Stranger in the Lifeboat (2021).

Background on Tuesdays with Morrie

Morrie Schwartz (1916-1995) was born in New York City. He graduated from New York's City College, and went on to win a fellowship to the University of Chicago where he was awarded a Ph.D. in sociology. In 1959, he began teaching sociology at Brandeis, a nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored university, established in 1948. It was not until 1995, when he was dying from ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, that Morrie ended his career as a professor. A fatal neuromuscular disease, ALS is characterized by progressive muscle debilitation that ultimately results in paralysis. ALS is commonly known as Lou Gherig's disease, after the famous baseball player who died of the disease in 1941 at the age of forty.

Tuesdays with Morrie was published in 1997 with a small print run, but through word of mouth sales grew, garnering the book a place on the New York Times bestseller list for 205 weeks. It is one of the most successful memoirs of all time, having sold over 20 million copies. In 1999, Oprah Winfrey produced an adaptation of Tuesdays with Morrie for ABC television starring Jack Lemmon as Morrie and Hank Azaria as Albom that garnered high ratings and awards.

In Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch recalls how the political controversies of the 1970's affected his and Morrie's years at Brandeis University. Following the nation's withdrawal from the Vietnam War in 1973, and former President Nixon's resignation from office in 1974, the Brandeis campus, like many college campuses nationwide, was a hot bed for political debate and protest. Continuing the thread of racial tension in Tuesdays With Morrie, is a story Morrie tells about an incident in which he had acted as the negotiator between the university president and a group of black students who felt that they were being oppressed by the school administration. The students had established their protesting grounds in one of the university's science buildings, and hung a banner from a window that read: "Malcolm X University." The banner paid homage to Malcolm X, a premier black leader and militant advocate of black nationalism who was assassinated in 1965.