I'm late on this: You might have read about computer science professor Randy Pausch's valedictory lecture at Carnegie-Mellon University, summarizing his career. A 46-year-old husband and father of three small children, he's dying of metastasized pancreatic cancer (but you'd never know it to watch him).
Dr. Pausch's lecture is up on YouTube, broken out into ten-minute segments. [UPDATE: Good Morning America has a nine-minute segment with highlights and a Diane Sawyer interview with him; his Web page at C-MU has more links.] He's a lively and entertaining speaker who obviously follows what Christians and Jews call the Summary of the Law. He doesn't dwell at all on his illness; his life lessons are well worth the time.
I can't really make my teenagers do much anymore, but I'm going to strongly encourage them to watch the video. Non-computer people might be most interested in:
- Part 1
- Part 6, starting at about 0:30 into it (things start to get poignant at about 1:10)
- Part 7, especially starting at about 8:10 where he surprises his wife
- Part 8 -- he gets to the lessons learned. Starting at about 3:20, he reveals a final "head fake" that will have you in tears if you weren't already.
Dr. Pausch's talk was one of a series of "last lectures" being done by academics to provide an overview of their disciplines. According to a CBS News blog piece today, the video has been downloaded nearly a million times:
. . . "Last lectures" have become popular on college campuses. It's where the professor speaks as if he's dying and has one last chance to convey all his most important wisdom to his students. It was a painfully simple assignment for Randy.
He IS dying.
Randy has pancreatic cancer which has now spread to his liver. I asked him if he would be around for Christmas. He said, "50/50". I asked, "Father's Day?". He said, "I wouldn't buy me anything." It was a rare somber moment.
Until you start talking about his three small children or his wife, Randy is able to stay remarkably upbeat. In his lecture at Carnegie Mellon he started by announcing that he'd experienced a death bed conversion - paused -smirked - and said, "I bought a Macintosh." The place erupted.
... his talk was a riveting and rollicking journey through the lessons of his life. It was also his last lecture, since he has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months.
After he spoke, his only plans were to quietly spend whatever time he has left with his wife and three young children. He never imagined the whirlwind that would envelop him. As video clips of his speech spread across the Internet, thousands of people contacted him to say he had made a profound impact on their lives. Many were moved to tears by his words -- and moved to action. Parents everywhere vowed to let their kids do what they'd like on their bedroom walls. * * *
Near the end of his lecture, Dr. Pausch had talked about earning his Ph.D., and how his mother would kiddingly introduce him: "This is my son. He's a doctor, but not the kind who helps people."
It was a laugh line, but it led dozens of people to reassure Dr. Pausch: "You ARE the kind of doctor who helps people," wrote Cheryl Davis of Oakland, Calif.
Dr. Pausch feels overwhelmed and moved that what started in a lecture hall with 400 people has now been experienced by millions. Still, he has retained his sense of humor. "There's a limit to how many times you can read how great you are and what an inspiration you are," he says, "but I'm not there yet."