July 30, 2008 Edition

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Pausch left legacy for all

John Bland

As did many others, I first heard of Randy Pausch when his lecture, titled "The Last Lecture," swept across the Internet last fall.

Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. The university has a tradition of asking professors to share their wisdom and what they would consider to be their most important ideas as if it were their last opportunity.

Pausch was asked to give the lecture, and for him, the reality of a final lecture was no stretch of the imagination. Just prior to the September lecture, Pausch had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given three to six months to live.


In his lecture and in what is a bestselling book, written with the help of Jeffrey Zaslow, Pausch explained that his real motivation for doing the lecture and book was his three young children. He wanted them to know who he was and to pass on to them what he deemed as important in life.


Pausch lectures and writes about fulfilling childhood dreams. He did realize his dreams and much more. He was obviously a most unconventional and unforgettable college professor. "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand," said Pausch. "... The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people," he added.

Through his lecture, and with the help of the Internet, the book and subsequent appearances on ABC TV with Diane Sawyer, Pausch widened his scope of influence to millions.

Despite his diagnosis, Pausch continued to live his life with enthusiasm, courage and humor. He continued to enjoy each day and have fun. He made unforgettable memories with his wife, Jai, and their children, and he did everything possible to help prepare them for his death. He also kept riding his bike for exercise while simultaneously dictating his book to Zaslow.


His life is an inspiration, but his lecture and rise to fame is extraordinary. The video of his lecture can be seen on his website (Google "Randy Pausch"). He also has an excellent lecture on time management, as well as other speeches that can be viewed.

Renee had bought "The Last Lecture" shortly after the book was released in April. She read it earlier, but I just recently read it. Ironically, I finished it on Friday, the day Pausch died. Learning of his death was almost like hearing of the loss of a friend. He was only 47, but his influence will live on.

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