SMPA Alumni Remember Professor Mike Freedman

September 22, 2023

Michael Freedman

A number of SMPA alumni shared the stories below about beloved SMPA Professor Michael Freedman. Do you have a fond memory you'd like to share? Email us at [email protected]

The stories below are included in the order received.


Andrew Springer

"I had Mike in 2006 or so for "Radio News History and Practice." I didn't know it at the time but this was the kind of class I came to GW for. Every week, Mike would bring in a guest speaker, including Richard C. Hottelet, the last surviving Murrow Boy.

Mike also took us on field trips: once to the U.S. Senate Press Gallery, once to the press box of RFK Stadium before a Nats Game. Mike had arranged a tour of the stadium for us before the game which included—I kid you not—a brief chat with Frank Robinson(!!!!)—in the home dugout—during batting practice. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We then sat in the press box during the game!

Of course you know that Mike had a passion for radio, its history and power. But he didn't just sit on that passion, he shared it with his students. Going to his class made us feel like we could do anything in the world. The Washington, D.C. media establishment wasn't some ivory tower, it was full of regular people, doing their jobs and serving the public. It was almost like he was saying, here's the history, learn it, and go be a part of making it."

David Earl

"I think in large part, what made Mike so special was the way he transferred love from himself to his students. Whether it was leading voices from the past and present from CBS, Stan Kasten and Frank Robinson with the Washington Nationals, or Marvin Kalb and the Kalb Report guests, people gave Mike their time because they loved him, and he passed his gifts on to the rest of us. Because of Mike, I was able to have dinner with him, Marvin Kalb, and Ken Burns in advance of a Kalb Report event. I can still remember where I sat at that table, and Burns sharing his absolute passion for baseball. 

I can think of no better distillation of that than Frank Robinson's willingness to sit with us in the dugout of RFK Stadium and talk to Mike's students about baseball mere hours after being told he was not being retained the following season. It was no doubt an immense act of kindness by Robinson, but I think you have to really love and respect Mike to be willing to put on that brave face in a tough moment.

Rather than teaching us in a classroom, Mike gave us his office as our classroom, welcoming us in his space to have intimate discussions about his own experiences and welcoming brilliant journalists into his office with us. I'll never forget just how in his element he seemed when working with us on our final projects -- sitting in the WRGW studios and recording our own radio news stories while making sure we hit the right posts for how a news broadcast could work. 

He believed in all of us at WRGW, making sure we had the budget necessary to have a student broadcast no matter where GW Basketball teams played. I've no doubt that many of my friends and classmates who went on to careers in sports media were driven forward by that investment.

Mike was an extraordinarily kind, passionate, and enthusiastic person, and he was so generous with his gifts. I'm lucky to have known him."

David DiMolfetta

"I was a “covid-19” student my senior year at GW. I had minored in journalism and majored in business analytics, and I was being strongly encouraged to lean more into the latter half of my studies out of an abundance of financial caution at a time when the job market was very unknown for young people, especially those who were months out from graduating (we all know how competitive entering the news business is).

At the same time, I was taking Prof. Freedman’s Media History class online as part of course requirements for my minor. Against other courses in operations, modeling, programming, etc, stepping into his (virtual) classroom was a refreshing weight off my shoulders. You could really feel his passion about the journalism profession shine through, even in a little Zoom window. The best part of his class were his connections with the broader media industry. I remember fondly folks like Steve Portnoy (who I recently connected with last year) chatting with our class. A highlight were his invitations for us to critique the 2020 presidential debates at the National Press Club where, at the time, he was president. It was my first taste of hardcore, Washington political journalism, and it helped set the stage for what I am doing now.

When the time came for me to consider job offers, I willingly took a pay cut to enter news, turning down an offer from a cybersecurity company. For a year and a half I was covering tech policy with S&P Global’s news service in DC, and in February, I joined The Washington Post, something I could never have imagined happening to me. Among many people I looked up to over the years as I weighed whether to be a journalist, Mike Freedman’s course was my magnum opus moment in undergrad that gave me the final push to do what I do now.

I salute Mike’s service to the journalism community and only wish I had one last chance to thank him for everything he has given me. I am a National Press Club member now. I think of him every time I enter and show guests his picture on the wall of past club presidents to make sure they know he is the reason why I am there. May his memory be a blessing and a legacy."

Sam Farber

"I was a student of Mike's from 2002-2006, both in his class and with him mentoring our group at WRGW. Quite simply, Mike was the most important and influential person I met as a college student at GW. 

For me he was a kindred spirit. Someone who loved sports and specifically sports broadcasting as much as I did. That passion was infectious, and it gave me permission to dream big.

Without Mike's encouragement and inspiration my dreams would not have become a reality. Not only would I not be in the NBA today, I never would have worked for ESPN, and probably would never have gotten off the ground as a play by play broadcaster. His support was well beyond words and stories. Mike advocated for WRGW to have the financial and physical resources to broadcast not just GW games but minor league baseball games that were the foundation of my broadcasting career. 

Equally as important as his influence professionally was the balance he displayed in his professional life and encouraged me to pursue. From my time at GW right up to our most recent conversation earlier this year, Mike talked glowingly about the pride, joy and fulfillment his family gave him. As proud as I know he was of me professionally, I think he was more proud that I have found the balance in my life to not just excel professionally but also focus on and find happiness with my wife and our two children. It's a blessing to be a play by play broadcaster, but many in my profession sacrifice a family life to do it. Mike was an example that you could and should have it all.

I kept in touch with Professor Freedman for 20 years and I am so incredibly grateful to have called him a mentor, teacher and friend. I know his memory will always be a blessing for me and my family, as well as countless others who were lucky enough to know and learn from him."

Jonny Kandell

"He taught one of the best classes called Media History. We’d meet him in the basement of the Newseum every week and he’d give a wonderful lecture about journalism. Then we’d explore exhibits with him and special guests. He really went out of his way to make his students feel involved and engaged. He was never a jerk about deadlines and valued creativity in the classroom. His class will forever stay with me, as will his generous personality and kind heart. I hope he’s at peace after battling cancer."

Alayna Treene

What devastating news. Professor Freedman was such a wonderful teacher, mentor and person. I took his class at the Newseum in the fall of 2014, and still remember it as being one of my favorite classes during my time at GW, both for its unique location and interesting lessons, but also because Professor Freedman was such a compelling teacher. 

Professor Freedman and I have remained in contact in the years since I've graduated from GW (in 2016), and he had been such a great influence on my life and career. He was always so kind, welcoming and most of all encouraging to his students. He brought the history of journalism to life in his many lessons, and always made sure to keep his students and their interests and goals in mind. 

One anecdote that I think sums up Professor Freedman perfectly is how he would invite students who were unable to travel home for Thanksgiving to join him and his wife at his home for a Thanksgiving meal. The invitation, one that few professors are willing to make, is just one of many examples of how thoughtful Professor Freedman was and how much he cared about his students. 

I send my love to his family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time. He will be sorely missed.

Bekah Redwine

Professor Mike Freedman was the best professor that I ever had. I got to know him during my time in SMPA, particularly through his Media History class at the Newseum. Mike was extremely passionate about journalism and his love for the profession was the reason why I switched my major to journalism. Each week spent with Mike at the Newseum was a joy and I never dreaded the commute and 2.5 hour class that came with that. 

He invited the entire class to his home in Alexandria for Halloween in 2019, and I happily attended. I got the chance to see his memorabilia, both sports and journalism, on display in his beautiful home. One of my favorite moments was getting to play the NBC chime that he had on display, while I was in a Winifred Sanderson costume and he stood smiling next to me. 

Mike was always so kind to me, reaching out and pointing me in the right direction whenever needed. I stayed in contact with Mike after graduation and would reach out to him occasionally. Any opportunities that he saw that I was fit for at the Press Club, he recommended me. He did not have to do that, and yet he did. This was a common theme with Mike. He reserved my family passes for the Newseum, he provided me with job references, and he was an overall amazing human. I am grateful to have known him, and I cannot imagine the deep loss that his family is going through right now. May his memory be a blessing.

Babe Ruth

Danielle Mahar

I am very saddened to hear Professor Freedman has passed away, and my deepest condolences to his family whom you could tell he loved dearly as he never wasted an opportunity to bring up how proud he was of them.  

Professor Freedman was truly my favorite professor at GW, and I enjoyed learning about him and from him. From attending his Media History class at the Newseum to going to a Kalb Report event at the Press Club and serving as my advisor for my independent study, Professor Freedman (or how he signed all of his emails, Mike) was an amazing teacher and mentor to me. He connected me with so many inspiring photojournalists and reporters and always welcomed an ear to listen and offer advice. 

I remember sending him a replica of his favorite sports photo, Nat Fein’s “Babe Ruth Bows Out” as a thank you, and I think this photo captures a lot of Professor Freedman’s life and story - someone who gave his all, both professionally and personally, to the broadcast journalism industry through working, teaching, and providing an atmosphere where journalists felt safe to work and grow. I will cherish the time I had with him.


Amy Copal

I'm a 2011 SMPA graduate and took Prof. Mike Freedman's Radio News class in the spring of 2010 (SMPA 195, Radio News: History and Practice). He was simply a powerhouse of knowledge, and I recall him being enthusiastic about each lesson. We were so lucky to have him - he provided incredible access to guest speakers (including journalists: Richard C. Hottelet, Bill Whitney, Howard Arenstein, Dan Raviv, Sam Litzinger, Peter King, and Bob Fuss). My favorite class was when we visited Nationals Park, and he led us on a tour of the press box. 

The final project for Radio News involved writing and recording our own 5-minute broadcast. I don't have the loudest voice, and I remember him sitting with me as I recorded, providing advice to improve my presentation and speak up! He truly cared about his students, and it's clear he had a lasting impact on so many. I send my condolences to Prof. Freedman's family.

Sanford Cohen

 I’m second cousin to Professor Freedman and like him I took an early interest in broadcasting by listening to Ernie Harwell’s Hall of Fame Tiger baseball broadcasts on WJR.I am so proud of Michael’s many accomplishments and join his family in mourning his passing. His mother, Belle and my grandmother Jeannie were sisters. But Michael and I were very close as kids growing up in Oak Park, Michigan.

Our travels through the world of radio broadcasting took us on different paths but we shared a passion for the miracle of radio and it’s reach.

I was in Washington, DC earlier this year with the Arizona Broadcasters Association when at dinner we casually mentioned our connection to Michael to our Executive Director Chris Kline and he was astonished. Professor Freedman as it turns out was a mentor and inspiration to Kline, his student and we shared our reminisces together. Such is the life well lived by Michael and our sympathies extend to his family, friends and colleagues.


GW is known for two things – its location in the nation’s capital and its focus on politics. Professor Freedman’s “Media History” class exemplified these two things. Students met at the Newseum every week to learn about the evolution of journalism and mass media and its role in the course of history.

This was my favorite class I’ve ever taken. The subject, location, and Professor Freedman still have an impact on me. Media History furthered my love for Washington, DC. Professor Freedman taught his students about the evolution of media, knowing your audience, and the importance of networking in a city like DC.

In Judaism, we consider the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to be extremely holy. Those who pass away during these ten days are considered to have lived a particularly meaningful life. This certainly applies to Professor Freedman. I am proud to have learned from Professor Freedman. My thoughts are with his friends and family during this difficult time.

Katherine Rodriguez

I graduated in the class of 2014 and am so sorry to hear of Professor Freedman's passing.

I took Media History with him in Fall 2011 and he was the nicest, most empathetic professor I have ever encountered during my time at SMPA. When we were in the section of the Newseum which had a piece of the twin towers, Professor Freedman initiated a very emotional discussion on where we each were on 9/11. The stories that were shared that day were heartbreaking, and it was hard to get through it without shedding a tear. But Professor Freedman intently listened as each of us shared our stories, and made us feel more at ease with such a serious topic.

I also got the pleasure of visiting him in his office hours, shortly after I got rejected from SMPA's political communication program a second time as a sophomore. He encouraged me to try again, but for the next time, as a journalism major. His advice seemed to work well, as I was accepted into SMPA's journalism major that following spring.

He also had an incredible knowledge about the craft, but he made the material accessible in a fun way - the classroom was the Newseum after all! For our final assignment in that class, we had to write a paper about the history of our hometown newspaper. I chose a local paper that just so happens to be a branch of a competitor to the news outlet I currently work for. 

I owe part of my current success in New Jersey journalism (and my career in general) to what I learned in Professor Freedman's Media History class. He will be sorely missed as a professor, broadcaster and leader in the field of journalism.

Joe Bondi

Many of you will remember my friend Mike as I do:  a lover of things, a passionate lover of baseball, of radio, of his wife and his family, of teaching and his students, of history and old things. Mike was indeed a man from an earlier time. These passions told that story. Nothing lit him up like finding a new document signed by a founding father, or the latest news with his beloved Nats or Tigers, or the start of a new school year with a new crop of Radio History and Practice students. 

Above all things, Mike Freedman was a story teller. In fact, his stories often made him late. Often made classes run long. As his seatmate at a baseball game, one was an audience of one for nine innings. And what stories they were. Babe Ruth and Tony Bennett. His time as a sportscaster in Detroit. His time running the newsroom in New York. His time with Charlie and Dave, and Dusty and Marvin. Walter Cronkite, and the memory of Murrow. 

Mike’s fingerprints were on just about anything fun, unique or newsworthy at GW from 2001 to 2012. Tony Bennett spoke—sang actually—at my commencement, moving my Grandma Anita to tears when we posed behind the stage for a photo with him because of Mike Freedman. I was lucky to be in his first class my senior year, spring 2001. His office in Rice Hall was our classroom. The Press Club was our classroom. WTOP and the Nats Park broadcast booth were our classrooms. Mike’s class—which he went on to teach for 20-plus more years—was so very GW.  It was a practical education that used the city as its textbook, famous guest speakers as its lecturers. Without a doubt, Mike’s class inspired careers in radio, no small feat indeed.

And then there was baseball.  Mike had season tickets—a full season mind you—from day one at RFK. He was so passionate about the Nats. He loved that team, he loved the highs and the lows. And there were highs and lows. One needed only prompt with, “So, you think they’ll trade Soto?” And then one wouldn’t need to speak for 12 minutes. I saw my first—and the Nats first—no-hitter with Mike. I’ll never, ever forget it. We sat in stunned silence in section 311 after the now-forgotten Steven Souza, Jr. leapt into the air to catch the final fly ball to preserve Jordan Zimmerman’s no-hit game. This is a top sports moment of my life, and I was there because of Mike Freedman. 

The last time I spoke to Mike on the phone—not knowing it would be our last—he was deep into his fight with cancer. He sounded different. Clinical, like a doctor telling me about the treatments he was receiving and the prognosis. He was direct and cold, at the end of each sentence saying, “ok?” like he was willing himself to internalize what he was saying, as he did the same for me. Before I could say goodbye, I asked him about the Nats. And just like that my old friend was back, warm and wistful, funny, if it is possible to hear a twinkle in an eye, I heard it. Mike, you may have left us too early, but you went 1-0 in this life.  Indeed, a Curly W in your book.

Haley Zimring

Professor Freedman made his life count. He was an extraordinary teacher and role model to myself and countless others. He made every class an experience. Many of my favorite college memories are thanks to Professor Freedman - a night out with classmates at a Nationals game, dinner with Walter Isaacson at the National Press Club, nights volunteering for the Kalb Report. Professionally, he was one of the first people I turned to for advice. Personally, he was someone I looked up to for how he balanced an expansive career with a beautiful family life with Renee and his two boys. Professor Freedman’s love of his family permeated everything he did. I am forever grateful for the impact Professor Freedman had on my life. He will be greatly missed and always remembered.

Daniel Rich

Professor Freedman truly embodied everything that a college student looks for in a professor and mentor. I was fortunate to take his Media History class at the Newseum during the Fall 2017 semester, my final semester of undergraduate education, and what a way to end my time at GW. Each week Professor Freedman's breadth of industry knowledge and reach was on full display with engaging lectures and fascinating guest speakers. Beyond being fortunate enough to learn from Professor Freedman's academic and journalistic prowess, it was an absolute pleasure to spend a few hours each week with Michael Freedman the person. Professor Freedman took the time throughout the semester to get to know each student in a way that is rare among Professors. Professor Freedman knew how to make you smile, and wanted each student to leave class each week better off than they were before -- something he achieved week in and week out. A prime example of Professor Freedman's character and reputation is how he opened his home each year to students to spend Halloween handing out candy at his townhouse in Old Town. This was an opportunity that you could not miss, and was certainly a highlight of my time at GW, because each extra moment with Professor Freedman was coveted. Professor Freedman was an invaluable part of my undergraduate education, and my time at GW and will be greatly missed. 

Zoya Ansari

Mike Freedman taught my favorite class at GW. He was a kind, spirited man who sought to encourage, inspire and include students in his teachings. There are so many amazing memories I can reflect on, but I think my fondest will always be visiting his home in Alexandria on Halloween. We handed out candy and he showed us his vast media history collection, which included a detective Kermit puppet and a vintage phonograph. We played with his dog, Shayna, and found out her grandmother had been littermates with the Obamas’ dog. We met his wonderful wife who, alongside Professor Freedman and Shayna, was sporting a Washington Nationals jersey.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect, nostalgic Halloween as a college student hundreds of miles away from her own suburban home.