The last day of “The Last Lecture” Professor

The last day of “The Last Lecture” Professor

  • “The brick walls are not there to keep us out,
  • the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show 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.”

PITTSBURGH, July 26 – Randy Pausch said obstacles serve a purpose: They “give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” Confronted with incurable cancer, he devised a last lecture that became an Internet sensation, a best-selling book and a celebration of a life spent achieving his dreams.

Ten months after giving the lecture, Pausch died yesterday at his home in Chesapeake, Virginia, said Jeffrey Zaslow, the Wall Street Journal writer who co-wrote Pausch’s book “The Last Lecture.” Pausch was 47.

Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2006. A year later, he gave the popular 76-minute speech titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”

The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch

A professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design, Pausch was recognised as a pioneer of virtual reality research and became known on campus for his flamboyance and showmanship as a teacher and mentor.

In April, the book “The Last Lecture” was published and leaped to the top of the non-fiction best-seller lists, where it remained this week. The book deal was reported to be worth more than US$6 million (RM19.8 million).

Pausch said he dictated the book to Zaslow by cell phone, and Zaslow recalled yesterday that he was “strong and funny” during their collaboration.

“It was the most fun 53 days of my life because it was like a performance,” Zaslow told The Associated Press. “It was like getting 53 extra lectures.”

He recalled that Pausch became emotional when they worked on the last chapter, though, because that to him was the “end of the lecture, the book, his life.”

The speech last fall was part of a series Carnegie Mellon previously called “The Last Lecture,” where professors were asked to think about what matters to them most and give a hypothetical final talk.

Only in Pausch’s case, the popular professor really was facing death – and he talked about what his childhood dreams had taught him about life.

“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams, it’s about how to lead your life,” Pausch told the audience. “If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you.”

Pausch’s lecture began with him standing before a screen beaming down chilling CT images of the tumours in his liver under the title “The Elephant in the Room.” He said he had recently been told he had no more than six months of good health left.

“I’m in really good shape. In fact, I am in better shape than most of you,” Pausch said, dropping to the floor to do push-ups.

His childhood dreams included writing an article in the World Book encyclopaedia (“I guess you can tell the nerds early”), winning big stuffed animals at the amusement park, being Captain Kirk of “Star Trek,” and playing in the NFL.

He did write for World Book, on virtual reality; talked his way into a flight on the Nasa “vomit comet” plane that simulates the effect of weightlessness; and amassed a herd of jumbo stuffed animals. He met William Shatner, who played Kirk on “Star Trek.”

He recalled applying to be a Disney imagineer, and getting back “the damn nicest go-to-hell letters I’ve ever gotten.” But the rejection didn’t discourage him and he wound up, indeed, doing design work for Disney.

“The brick walls are not there to keep us out, the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show 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.”

As for the NFL, he didn’t meet that goal – but he noted how youth football taught him such valuable lessons as the need to learn the fundamentals. And after his lecture last fall, the Pittsburgh Steelers invited him to take part in a practice, which was “fantastic beyond my wildest dreams,” he told The New York Times.

Pausch’s message and story were so powerful they landed him on “Oprah” and other TV shows. He said he was embarrassed and flattered. But really, he said, the speech was for his three children.

Born in 1960, Pausch received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Brown University and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon. He taught at the University of Virginia from 1988 to 1997, when he came to Carnegie Mellon.

He co-founded Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Centre, a master’s programme for bringing artists and engineers together. He also created an animation-based teaching program called Alice designed to teach computer programming to high school and college students.

In February, the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences in California announced the creation of the Dr Randy Pausch Scholarship Fund for university students who pursue careers in game design, development and production.

He is survived by his wife, Jai, and their three children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe; his mother, and a sister.

In a statement yesterday, his wife thanked those who sent messages of support and said her husband was proud that his lecture and book “inspired parents to revisit their priorities, particularly their relationships with their children.” – AP

We at Hyperion were very sad to hear the news this morning of Randy Pausch’s passing. Randy was a remarkable man, and we were extremely proud to be the publisher of his extraordinary book. As Randy reminded us, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” The way Randy lived his life up until the very end of it is an example to all of us and he will be missed by millions.
—Ellen Archer, President and Publisher, Hyperion Books

On September 18, 2007, computer science professor Randy Pausch stepped in front of an audience of 400 people at Carnegie Mellon University to deliver a last lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” With slides of his CT scans beaming out to the audience, Randy told his audience about the cancer that is devouring his pancreas and that will claim his life in a matter of months. On the stage that day, Randy was youthful, energetic, handsome, often cheerfully, darkly funny. He seemed invincible. But this was a brief moment, as he himself acknowledged.

Randy’s lecture has become a phenomenon, celebrating the dreams we all strive to make realities. And now, in his book based on the now-famous lecture, Randy goes even deeper to inspire us all.

Randy Pausch is a professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. From 1988 to 1997, he taught at the University of Virginia. He is an award-winning teacher and researcher, and has worked with Adobe, Google, Electronic Arts (EA), and Walt Disney Imagineering, and pioneered the non-profit Alice project. (Alice is an innovative 3-D environment that teaches programming to young people via storytelling and interactive game-playing.) He also co-founded The Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon with Don Marinelli. (ETC is the premier professional graduate program for interactive entertainment as it is applies across a variety of fields.) He lives in Virginia with his wife and three children.


The Last Lecture goes beyond the now-famous lecture to inspire us all to live each day of our lives with purpose and joy

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
-Randy Pausch

A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave-“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”-wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

Read an excerpt
Watch the lecture that inspired the book
What people are saying
Listen to Randy read the Introduction of The Last Lecture

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