10 years later: Remembering Randy Pausch’s ‘last lecture’ at Carnegie Mellon
Editor’s note: Monday marked the 10-year anniversary of the world-renowned “last lecture,” a lecture given by Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch about living your dreams. Pausch died of pancreatic cancer 10 months later. Below is the full story written by Allison M. Heinrichs on Sept. 18, 2007, for the Tribune-Review. The full lecture can be viewed in the video above.
Before Randy Pausch spoke one word at his “last lecture” as a Carnegie Mellon University professor on Tuesday, the crowd in packed McConomy Auditorium gave him a standing ovation.
“Make me earn it,” the computer science professor said as he tried to quiet the audience.
“You already did,” someone replied.
Pausch, 47, expects to die of pancreatic cancer in the next few months. As a farewell to the university community, he gave a speech, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”
Pausch talked about his dreams of being in zero gravity, working for Disney, playing for the National Football League, winning the big stuffed animals at amusement parks and being Captain Kirk.
For a dying man, the father of three young children looked pretty good.
“I am in phenomenally good health right now,” Pausch said, proving it by doing several one-handed push-ups. “In fact, I am in better shape than most of you.”
He then told the more than 350 people in the university’s largest auditorium — the line for the speech wrapped throughout the halls of University Center and many people did not make it inside — about how he achieved his dreams.
Most he reached, but some — like playing for the NFL — just didn’t happen. Through it all, he had fun.
“I don’t know how to not have fun,” said Pausch, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year. “I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day of my life because there’s no other way to play it.”
His wife’s family lives in Norfolk, Va., and they spent the past several weeks moving there.
After his speech, mentors, colleagues and friends presented Pausch with a series of awards, including the Randy Pausch endowed scholarship fund that will be awarded annually to a female undergraduate student at Carnegie Mellon.
It was created by Electronic Arts, or EA, which makes educational video games — something Pausch is passionate about.
“Randy brings a particular zest for life and humor, even when facing death,” said Steve Seabolt, a vice president at EA and Pausch’s good friend.
Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon revealed plans for the Randy Pausch Memorial Footbridge. It will connect two of the university’s buildings — the Purnell Center for the Arts and the Gates Center for Computer Science, which is under construction.
“There will be generations of students and faculty coming here who did not know you,” Cohon said. “But they will cross that bridge and we will tell them.”
The bridge will give a physical representation to a link Pausch made more than a decade ago as co-founder of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, which melds entertainment with computer science, and creator of the university’s Building Virtual Worlds course, a class that has computer science students working with arts students.
“It was the most enlightening class I’ve ever taken,” said Michael Agustin, a former student. “Randy made sure that at a certain point you would find the best in yourself — and perhaps the worst. That was the best and most humbling experience.”
Pausch ended the nearly two-hour lecture — punctuated by lots of laughter and a few tears — by letting the audience in on a secret.
“Talk’s not for you,” he said. “It’s for my kids.”