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Passing of Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor whose “Last Lecture” led to a book and world-wide attention, passed away today from pancreatic cancer. From a message from Jared Cohon, President of CMU:

Randy captured the minds and hearts of millions worldwide with his Carnegie Mellon lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” and his book, “The Last Lecture.”

Randy, who earned his doctorate from Carnegie Mellon in 1988, returned to the university in 1997 as an associate professor of human-computer interaction and computer science. Along with Carnegie Mellon Professor Don Marinelli, Randy was the co-founder of the Entertainment Technology Center, a leading interactive multimedia education and entertainment center.

At Carnegie Mellon, Randy was also the director of the Alice software project, a revolutionary way to teach computer programming. The interactive Alice program teaches computer programming by having kids make animated movies and games. A fitting legacy to Randy’s life and work, Alice may in the future help to reverse the dramatic drop in the number of students majoring in computer science at colleges and universities. Randy was also known as a pioneer in the development of virtual reality, and he created the popular Building Virtual Worlds class.

An award-winning teacher and researcher, Randy was also a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator and a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow. He used sabbatical leaves to work at Walt Disney Imagineering and Electronic Arts (EA), and he consulted with Google Inc. on user interface design. He is the author or co-author of five books and more than 70 articles.

Perhaps the greatest lesson, however, Randy taught us all was how to live, even in the face of great challenges, and how to follow our passion. While Randy’s greatest passion was clearly his family, he did not shy from sharing his passion for his work as a professor, for his students, and for Carnegie Mellon. We will miss Randy, but we will carry the memory of him and all that he did to make Carnegie Mellon a better university and each of us who knew him a better person.

I didn’t see Randy’s original talk, though I have seen videos of it. I don’t know how he had the strength to make a talk like that. If I had brought my wife and son out on the stage knowing I would not see him grow up, I would be a weepy mess. I am sorry to see his passing, but I think a lot of kids got extra hugs, and perhaps people better balanced their lives (and lived out their childhood dreams), because of him.

{ 4 } Comments

  1. Keri T | July 25, 2008 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I was very saddened to hear the news of Randy’s passing. I felt a connection with Randy and his family although I never met any of them. My husband died November 16, 2007 from a 3 year battle with colon cancer. He was 45 years old and he left behind 3 boys, ages 10, 12, and 14. He was my life and my love. Death is so final. As much as you think you are prepared for it nothing can actually prepare you for the finality of it all.

    I will be praying for Randy’s wife and children the same way I pray for my boys and I. I have been focusing on the gift I had in my husband for 16 1/2 years and I am not focusing on what I will not have in the future.

    When you lose someone you love all you are left with are the memories. Don’t wait until tomorrow or next year, do it now! Create memories today! I can see from all I read that Randy left his family many memories.

    God Bless.

  2. Diana N | July 25, 2008 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I have to wonder what the idiot person from another blog I read that doubted Randy even had cancer, is thinking now. Probably coming up with some other BS.
    I definitely can identify with Randy and I am saddened more than I can express. He was such an inspiration. It was as if through his strength a cure was going to come in time for him.

  3. Renjun Bao | July 28, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    My father passed away because of stroke at 48, the same age as Randy Pausch. I was a freshman at that time. I can understand how difficult it is for Pausch’s family now.
    I was diagnosed with PKD 6 years ago. Later on I found out it was the hypertension caused by PKD killed my father. I was really scared at that time. Little by little i figure out how to live with it.
    Now I try my best to maintain general health. Meanwhile I treat every day of my life like the last day. You never know what gonna happen tomorrow.

  4. Justin | July 31, 2008 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    You have to respect a man that, in his dying days, decides to write a book and try to leave the world a little better than he found it. This man was a scholar, and a saint.

    Thanks for the post.
    Justin