Maurie Stein, Charlie Derber, Gordie Fellman, David Schwartz, Rabbi Al Axelrad, and the
multitude of Morrie’s friends and colleagues. Also, special thanks to Bill Thomas, my editor, for
handling this project with just the right touch. And, as always, my appreciation to David Black, who
often believes in me more than I do myself.
Mostly, my thanks to Morrie, for wanting to do this last thesis together. Have you ever had a
teacher like this?
The last class of my old professor’s life took place once a week in his house, by a window in
the study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink leaves. The class met on
Tuesdays. It began after breakfast. The subject was The Meaning of Life. It was taught from
No grades were given, but there were oral exams each week. You were expected to respond to
questions, and you were expected to pose questions of your own. You were also required to perform
physical tasks now and then, such as lifting the professor’s head to a comfortable spot on the pillow
or placing his glasses on the bridge of his nose. Kissing him good-bye earned you extra credit.
No books were required, yet many topics were covered, including love, work, community,
family, aging, forgiveness, and, finally, death. The last lecture was brief, only a few words.
A funeral was held in lieu of graduation.
Although no final exam was given, you were expected to produce one long paper on what was
learned. That paper is presented here.
The last class of my old professor’s life had only one student.
I was the student.
It is the late spring of 1979, a hot, sticky Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of us sit together, side
by side, in rows of wooden folding chairs on the main campus lawn. We wear blue nylon robes. We
listen impatiently to long speeches. When the ceremony is over, we throw our caps in the air, and
we are officially graduated from college, the senior class of Brandeis University in the city of
Waltham, Massachusetts. For many of us, the curtain has just come down on childhood.
Afterward, I find Morrie Schwartz, my favorite professor, and introduce him to my
parents. He is a small man who takes small steps, as if a strong wind could, at any time,
whisk him up into the clouds. In his graduation day robe, he looks like a cross between a
biblical prophet and a Christmas elf He has sparkling blue green eyes, thinning silver hair
that spills onto his forehead, big ears, a triangular nose, and tufts of graying eyebrows.
Although his teeth are crooked and his lower ones are slanted back–as if someone had