Mitch flashes back to the spring of 1976, when he has his first class with Morrie. In Morrie's classroom, he wonders if he should take the class, as it will be hard to cut with so few students. Morrie takes attendance and asks Mitch if he prefers to be called "Mitch" or "Mitchell," a question he has never been asked by one of his teachers. He replies that his friends call him "Mitch," and Morrie, after deciding on "Mitch," replies that one day, he hopes he will call him a friend.
The third chapter of the book, The Student, explores Mitch as a character, and how he has transformed from an ambitious, hopeful young man into a money- grubbing professional who has abandoned his long-harbored dreams for financial security. It is clear that Mitch feels disconnected with the man he was in his youth, but desperately wants to reestablish a connection with his forgotten dreams and values. Mitch had abandoned his dreams at a very vulnerable period in his life, as he had grown increasingly discouraged by his failure playing the nightclub circuit, and to compound his disillusionment, had lost his favorite uncle, to whom he was very close. More than any other factor, it is his uncle's death that Mitch finds the most disturbing, and from then on sees life as a race to beat the clock, sucking dry every moment of life to win money and power in the business world. Mitch feels helpless as he watches his uncle die slowly and painfully of cancer, and yearns for some sense of control in his own life, which he eventually gains when he adopts a steady work routine and gains financial security, two perks absent from his piano touring days.
Mitch's relationship to his uncle is comparable to his relationship with Morrie, in that they have both affected his general outlook on life. However, it is vital to notice the difference between the two men and Mitch's reaction to each of their lifestyles. Mitch makes a conscious and earnest effort to be as unlike his uncle as he can possibly be, opting for various jobs in various locales so that he may avoid the terrible monotony of corporate life he had seen his uncle suffer through. However, Mitch does say that he models himself after his uncle, as he models himself after Morrie. Both men come across as kind and giving, and both have shaped Mitch as a person. In his reunion with Morrie, though, he realizes that by trying not to live the life his uncle had led, he has only done himself a disservice. He has immersed himself in work, not love, and is therefore unsatisfied. Seeking happiness in love versus seeking happiness in money serves as one of Morrie's most important lessons, as it is repeated numerous times throughout the book.
Morrie's interview shows his refusal to adhere to the rules of social culture. He is not dazzled by Ted Koppel, as is everyone else who meets him. Instead, Morrie sees each person for what he or she is: simply and purely human. Unlike the others who feed into America's media-soaked culture, Morrie treats Koppel as he would any other man. Morrie sees the humanity in Ted Koppel, not the celebrity, and tries to extract this simple humanity when he asks Koppel what is "close to his heart." Morrie seems to be asking also why the culture has forgotten love and remembered money. Why, he essentially asks, has the importance shifted from people to dollar bills, to fame? When Morrie admits that he had thought of Koppel as a narcissist — a vain, shallow, selfish person who is capable of loving only himself — he indirectly expresses his distaste for the modern media circus and the way in which the culture readily buys into it.