Randy Pausch, "Last Lecture" Professor, Dies
BY Mike Hofman
Randy Pausch, the computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon whose last lecture to students became a web video phenomenon, has died of pancreatic cancer at age 47. Pausch's lecture and trademark optimism were written about by Jeffrey Zaslow of The Wall Street Journal; the two men subsequently collaborated on a book version of the speech. Pausch was also invited on Oprah to share his wisdom, and interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC. Sawyer announced his death on Good Morning America.
During his career, Pausch studied how animation and computer graphics could be applied to entertainment. He worked at Disney's Imagineering division and at game maker Electronic Arts during sabbaticals from Carnegie Mellon; he also consulted with Google.
In addition, Pausch developed a curriculum for teaching technology in high-school and college classrooms, and launched an annual contest for people who created virtual reality software.
But in the end, he will probably be remembered for that moving lecture he delivered on September 18, 2007, on how he had achieved his childhood dreams, and how others could too. Among the lessons:
1. Make sure your dreams are specific. For example, he gave up on being an astronaut, but dreamed of "being in zero gravity," and persuaded NASA to let his class experience zero gravity in a training facility.
2. You have to commit yourself to either being an Eeyore or a Tigger. He chose the latter.
3. Bring something to the table. To get what you want, figure out how to trade something meaningful and valuable.
4. "It's very important to know when you're in a pissing match. And
it's very important to get out of it as quickly as possible."
There's a lot more—what were your favorite takeaways from Pauch's lecture?
If you haven't seen the whole thing yet, here's the video:
And here's his commencement address to Carnegie Mellon grads:
Finally, here's his obituary from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Last updated: Jul 25, 2008
MIKE HOFMAN was previously editor of Inc.com and a deputy editor at Inc. magazine, which he joined in 1996. The site was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media in 2010, and was named the best business website by Folio Magazine. In 2006, Hofman was part of a team of writers nominated for a Webby Award for best business blog. He lives in New York City. @mikehofman