Category Archives: special

Randy Pausch’s passing away and legacy

Many people wish to know inspiring Randy Pausch’s current medical condition. Alas he passed away last night at home in Virginia early on July 25, 2008 from pancreatic cancer at the age of 47.  Here are the 8 ways I see him influencing my life (his legacy).

I wrote about his amazing Carnegie Mellon University “Last Lecture” earlier (which has been viewed by more than 6,000,000 Americans. I also wrote how he has lived to fulfill his last unfulfilled dream of playing with a professional football team. [Randy was the head teaching assistant when I was a teaching assistant in an introductory computer class at Brown University some years back.]

He lived a bright life to the end, he went back in June to give a charge to the graduating seniors at his beloved Carnegie Mellon University. Randy who called himself an “accidental celebrity” and says there are not many of these for pancreatic cancer since people don’t survive long enough for there to be a Michael J. Fox, mustered the energy, in March, 2008, to testify powerfully and movingly before Congress on pancreatic cancer research.

Pausch noted that no progress has been made on pancreatic cancer research in the last 30 years and there is now a far better chance of living with AIDS than pancreatic cancer. Randy noted that pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths, a disease which strikes innocent victims: Randy exercised, ate right, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, but still contracted this disease. Randy Pausch thinks we can protect ourselves from this disease but not without dramatically increased funding for research. The disease is genetic and he goes to sleep at night fearing whether kids (ages 2-9) have this genetic marker, although he hoped with dramatically increased funding for pancreatic cancer research that by the time any of his kids get this disease (which usually strikes later in life), doctors will know how to cure it through genetic treatment.

See notable quotes from Randy here and his life wisdom here.

Note: Randy’s book The Last Lecture (Hyperion Press) was released (April 8, 2008), co-written with WSJ reporter Jeff Zaslow. See Randy’s video about the book and preview of interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News special about the book (airing April 10, 2008).

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Postscript: Inspiring Randy Pausch lives to fulfills dream of playing with NFL team, updated

I wrote earlier about Randy Pausch, dying of cancer, who gave an inspirational and wonderful ‘last lecture’ at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) where he taught. See blog post here.

He mentioned that the ONE dream that he hadn’t fulfilled was playing professional football, asserting that he had nonetheless learned many lessons from his football coach in the chasing of that dream. Now Randy has ‘played’ professional football, as he practiced recently with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He promised them that if they made it into the Super Bowl he’d still be alive to see it. [Randy fulfilled his end of the bargain; the Steelers however didn’t make it into the Super Bowl XLII which saw the scrappy NY Giants buck the heavily favorite New England Patriots, a thrilling game but one that left Pats fans wincing in the final seconds where the title miraculously slid from their certain grasp; Eli Manning eluded an all-but-certain sack and David Tyree made a how-did-he-do-it catch..]

See notable quotes from Randy here.  See Randy’s legacy for me in life lessons.

Read story “Dying Professor Tackles Final Dream” here.

Note: Randy Pausch is still alive but reports complications that required him to go back into the hospital on March 8, 2008. The great news is that he has beaten the 3-6 months that doctors gave him to live back on August 15, 2007; the bad news is that his body has hard a hard time tolerating the chemotherapy. Bad news: His pancreatic cancer has metastasized to his spleen and liver; doctors say he has a 100% chance of dying, it is just a question of when. Most doctors think he will be dead by the end of 2008. And the news as of July 24, 2008 is that the cancer is progressing as posted on Randy’s website. “A biopsy last week revealed that the cancer has progressed further than we had thought from recent PET scans. Since last week, Randy has also taken a step down and is much sicker than he had been. He’s now enrolled in hospice. He’s no longer able to post here so I’m a friend posting on his behalf because we know what many folks are watching this space for updates.”

He testified back in March 2008 in front of Congress on pancreatic cancer. Updates on Randy Pausch’s condition can be found here and his home page is here (which also has a video of him testifying before Congress on March 13, 2008). [Pausch notes that no progress has been made on pancreatic cancer research in the last 30 years and there is now a far better chance of living with AIDS than pancreatic cancer. His pancreatic cancer has metastasized to spleen and liver; doctors say he has a 100% chance of dying, it is just a question of when. Most doctors think he will be dead by end of the year. Randy notes that pancreatic cancer is a disease which strikes innocent victims: he exercised, ate right, didn’t smoke, but still contracted this disease. Randy Pausch thinks we can protect ourselves from this disease but not without dramatically increased funding for research. The disease is genetic and he goes to sleep at night fearing whether kids (ages 2-9) have this genetic marker although he hopes with dramatically increased funding for pancreatic cancer research that by the time any of his kids get this disease (which usually strikes later in life), doctors will know how to cure it through genetic treatment.]

Update: Randy’s book The Last Lecture (Hyperion Press) has now been released (April 8, 2008), co-written with WSJ reporter Jeff Zaslow. See Randy’s video about the book and preview of interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News special about the book (airing April 10, 2008).

Life’s wisdom from Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, who is imminently dying from pancreatic cancer but still quite alive, gave a ‘last lecture’ (i.e., what lecture would you give if you had only one last chance to give a lecture). He was at Brown University a bit ahead of me and I was a teaching assistant to him in a computer class, but never knew him that well; obviously my loss!

It’s funny, poignant, touching and all about living life to its fullest with humanity. Among his wise takeaways from his life thusfar are:

1. Brick walls aren’t meant to keep us from doing things but to separate the ones who REALLY want to do something (those who find a way around the brick wall) from those who don’t (those who give up)
2. Hold on to our “wonder” as we lose our chance to dream of greater things when we lose our wonder.
3. Experience is the wisdom we learn from failing to initially achieve what we wanted.
and many more…

See notable quotes from Randy here.

A heavily abridged 11 minute version of the lecture was given in April 2008 on Oprah.

Original 76 minute lecture available in ten different parts:

part 0
part 1 (Achieving Your Childhood Dreams)
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6
part 7
part 8
part 9
part 10

Transcript of the Last Lecture available here.

And story also described in a Wall Street Journal column “A Beloved Professor Delivers The Lecture of a Lifetime” (WSJ, 9/20/07, p. D1 by Jeff Zaslow in his Moving On column). If not available there, you can also try here (for text and a 4 minute video story).

Note: Randy’s book The Last Lecture (Hyperion Press) has now been released (April 8, 2008), co-written with WSJ reporter Jeff Zaslow. See Randy’s video about the book and preview of interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News special about the book (airing April 10, 2008). He published an abridgment in Parade Magazine in April 2008.

Updates on Randy Pausch’s condition can be found here and his home page is here (which also has a video of him testifying before Congress on March 13, 2008).