Prof. Randy Pausch Has Died
Randy Pausch, the professor whose "last lecture" became a runaway phenomenon on the Internet and was turned into a best-selling book, died Friday of pancreatic cancer, Carnegie Mellon University announced on its Web site.
Pausch, 47, a computer science professor, delivered the lecture, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," at Carnegie Mellon in September 2007, a month after being told he had three to six months to live because his cancer had returned.
The lanky, energetic Pausch talked about goals he had accomplished, like experiencing zero gravity and creating Disney attractions, and those he had not, including becoming a professional football player.
He used rejections he was handed when he applied for jobs at Disney to comment on the importance of persistence.
"The brick walls are there for a reason ... to show us how badly we want something," he said. "Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people."
Starting with a joke about "a deathbed conversion" -- "I just bought a Macintosh" computer -- the educator went on to say that one of his childhood dreams was to write an entry in the World Book Encyclopedia.
"I guess you can tell the nerds early," he added.
An expert in virtual reality, Pausch did go on to write an encyclopedia entry on the subject.
He discussed his fondness for winning stuffed animals at fairs, showed a slide of them, then -- pretending to be concerned his audience would think the image had been digitally manipulated -- produced them onstage.
Donning silly costume items like a vest with arrows sticking out of it and a Mad Hatter's hat, he described working with students as a way to help other people achieve their dreams.
He also played down his own importance, saying that after he got a Ph.D., his mother took to introducing him as "a doctor, but not the kind who helps people."
The lecture has been viewed more than 3.2 million times since it was posted on YouTube in December.
Pausch co-founded the university's Entertainment Technology Center and was known for developing interdisciplinary courses and research projects that attracted new students to the field of computer science. He also spent his career encouraging computer scientists to collaborate with artists, dramatists and designers, Carnegie Mellon said.
The university's president, Jared Cohon, described Pausch as "a brilliant researcher and gifted teacher."
"His love of teaching, his sense of fun and his brilliance came together in the Alice project, which teaches students computer programming while enabling them to do something fun -- making animated movies and games," Cohon added. "Carnegie Mellon -- and the world -- are better places for having had Randy Pausch in them."
Pausch describes Cohon urging him to talk about having fun in his lecture, and telling him it's difficult because it's like asking a fish to talk about water.
"I don't know how not to have fun," he said. "I'm dying and I'm having fun. And I'm going to keep having fun every day I have left."
Pausch is survived by his wife, Jai, and three children.
Thank you, Prof. Pausch. I wished more people could be as courageous and determined as you were with your love in the face of such an unimaginable circumstance. Just thank you.