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Inspiring "Last Lecture" Professor Dies

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Randy Pausch

Carnegie-Mellon computer science professor Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” given last September to several hundred students and faculty members at the university, was posted to YouTube primarily for the students and teachers who could not attend. 


It immediately went viral and has been viewed over 6 million times. At the time, Pausch’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer a month earlier had offered him about 2-5 more months to live. Whether it was because of his remarkable attitude, or his medical care (which he characterized as “spectacular”), or both, he outlived his diagnosis by several months when he died on Friday, July 25.

On March 13, 2008, Pausch provided a poignant testimony to Congress in behalf of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, saying that pancreatic cancer is the “4th leading killer amongst cancers,” and “it is one of the only cancers that you can point to and say—in the last 30 years we have made no progress.” He encouraged substantial government grants and funding for pancreatic cancer research saying “the smart people work on what there is money to work on. If the money’s there, I bet anything that by the time my kids are my age, we’ll have it licked.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaD1TsjGR0w

Pancreatic cancer has been linked to heredity.

Pausch was a devoted Star Trek fan, and has a cameo role in the upcoming Star Trek movie as a result of a personal invitation from the director, J.J. Abrams.

Pausch's book, “The Last Lecture,” was a runaway bestseller shortly after publication. Rob Kall reviewed it at http://www.opednews.com/articles/life_a_rob_kall_080421_book_review_the_last.htm

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Pausch posted an online diary in which he kept well-wishers up to date with his progress. His last entry was on June 26th. A friend posted for him on July 24, “because we know that many folks are watching this space for updates.” That post revealed that the professor was in hospice. He is survived by his wife, Jai, his three children, his mother and sister, and millions of people around the world who were inspired by his continuing attitude of finding the joy in each day.

During his remarkable journey he spoke several times of crafting a “safety net” for his family and he received many “fan” letters from people whose hearts had been touched (including mine, which is below).

April 13, 2008

Dear Jai and Randy,

I was one of the lucky ones to see Randy's "Last Lecture" video just days after it was posted, and I have been following your remarkable journey since. I thank you for sharing so much of your adventure with the world.

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My husband died in a plane crash when our daughter was five. We had no financial safety net. In fact, I lost the house and five businesses. Nevertheless, I discovered that the most important safety net is the human spirit, and my daughter and I danced through our rock-strewn path to find our way, turning stumbling blocks into stepping-stones. She is now 30, she put herself through med school, survived the trauma of last year at Virginia Tech, and will be a doctor in a year.

I woke up this morning with a pressing desire to share a couple of thoughts with you, learned from my own journey. I have read your website, I know from my personal experience that you have plenty on your plates besides reading this, I don't expect nor want you to spend precious time crafting a response. Still, I felt compelled to share these thoughts.

I have heard Randy say on a couple of interviews that he believes that your daughter may be too young to remember much of her dad. Granted, my five-year old was much older when her dad died, but I want to share with you that not all the memories are the result of remembering actual events. Much more of the memories are from the re-telling of the stories, which become the family mythology. I made a little book of photos of my daughter and her dad, and often storytime was a rich recounting of fun times with her dad: the day they bundled up to play in the once-in-a-lifetime snowfall in Louisiana, the two of them on his motorbike, riding ponies, or singing at the organ together. She even knows every detail about her amazing birth—when I went into labor, and the trip to the hospital, and the magic of her delivery—because of the photos and the stories that I have told her through the years. She certainly wouldn't have remembered that, otherwise!

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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