A crowd filled an auditorium at the University of Virginia in November to hear from Randy Pausch, a former professor there.
Cheering Section: Dying of Cancer, but Full of Life Lessons (May 11, 2008) The cause was metastasized pancreatic cancer, Carnegie Mellon University announced.
Professors are sometimes asked to give lectures on what wisdom they would impart if they knew it was their last chance. Soon after Dr. Pausch (pronounced powsh), a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, accepted that challenge, he learned he had months to live.
He hesitated, then went ahead with the lecture, on Sept. 18, 2007. He said he intended to have fun and advised others to do the same. He spoke of the importance of childlike wonder.
But Dr. Pausch did not omit things that would break just about anybody’s heart. He spoke of his love for his wife, Jai, and had a birthday cake for her wheeled on stage. He spoke of their three young children, saying he had made his decision to speak mostly to leave them a video memory — to put himself in a metaphorical bottle that they might someday discover on a beach.
As the video of his lecture spread across the Web and was translated into many languages, Dr. Pausch also became the co-author of a best-selling book and a deeply personal friend, wise, understanding and humorous, to many he never met.
“His fate is ours, sped up,” wrote Jeffrey Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal columnist who covered the lecture on the chance it would be a good story, and helped bring it wider awareness. The book he wrote with Dr. Pausch, “The Last Lecture,” was published this year and became a No. 1 best seller; last week it was still No. 1 on The New York Times list of advice books."