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Randy Pausch's 'Last Lecture'
Randy Pausch during his "Last Lecture: Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." (Photo: Carnegie Mellon University)

Randy Pausch delivering his "Last Lecture." (Photo: Carnegie Mellon University)

Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch seemed to walk on air. He had his dream job. A wonderful family. And when he learned that he had cancer and only months to live, he barely broke his stride.

He prepared to give his “last lecture,” titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” He talked about how brick walls were built for the “other people,” about mentors and loyalty and finding the good in others.

He became a media sensation, and the YouTube video reached millions. A bestselling book followed.

Pausch died last month. This hour, On Point: Randy Pausch and living your dreams.

You can join the conversation. Did you watch Randy Pausch’s last lecture? What did you take away from it? Share your thoughts.


Joining us from Detroit, Michigan, is Jeffrey Zaslow, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He wrote about Randy Pausch’s last lecture for the Journal and brought world-wide attention to the story. He’s the co-author, with Randy Pausch, of the new bestselling book, “The Last Lecture.”

Joining us from Pittsburgh is Dennis Cosgrove. A former student of Randy Pausch, he’s now carrying on Pausch’s legacy at Carnegie Mellon by heading up the design and implementation of Alice, educational software that teaches students programming in a 3D environment.

And with us from Pasadena, California, is Jon Snoddy. He’s an entertainment technology executive who founded the Disney Virtual Reality Studio to invent new forms of storytelling. He invited Randy Pausch into his group. Jon Snoddy’s current company, Bigstage, creates photo-realitistic avatars from digital photos.

Links & multimedia:

The Online Legacy of Professor Pausch
The New York Times’ Tara Parker-Pope has compiled an excellent collection of links on Randy Pausch.

Watch the YouTube video of Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture”:

Also from YouTube, you can watch a video of Pausch’s Congressional testimony last March on behalf of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network:

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  • http://www.ryerson.ca/surp Jim Mars

    Listening to Randy Pausch’s lecture in which he cites the strong positive influence of his Brown professor Andy Van Dam, bestirred me to contact Professor Van Dam after 40 years to tell him how taking just one course from him gave me a strong foundation and interest in computers which supported my work in urban and regional planning. And that his inspiring teaching ways, interesting lab and course assignments, have stayed with me, and hopefully influenced how I taught hundreds of planning students here at Ryerson University
    in Toronto.

    Andy was delighted to hear from me and how his work in computer science had spread out into another field.

  • Aline Da Fonseca

    I believe the most beautiful part of Randy’s legacy was the example he gave of the human spirit. Though his body failed him, his spirit and the love he had for his family can still be felt in such a tremendous way. His legacy I believe for many people will be that our ability to live and feel love and provide love through the toughest moments in our lives, is one of,if not the most powerful actions we as humans can partake in.

  • http://www.peacefulawareness.com Sherry Nurre

    I was looking for the exact words or actual clip of Mr. Pausch who is talking about his family standing over the edge of a cliff (& after he dies) who is going to be there to help them. I heard this on the XM radio this morning on On Point. I work for a non profit support center for grieving children in Tucson, AZ. (www.tunidito.org). I was wondering if I could propose to Tu Nidito to use this clip or quote because we are there for those families after a death loss to help them. We offer evening support groups for children & their families who have a parent with cancer. And also support groups for children who have a loved one die. And also for children with a serious illness.

    He is so profound! And I think his powerful, healing words could help us. I would also love to get his book to put in our library.

    What an inspiring man! I really enjoyed my 45 min drive to work today. Amazing how just simple words can really touch and inspire…and more importantly live on
    to help others. I can’t wait to read the book!

    My heart goes out to his family & all who knew him.

    Sherry Nurre
    Tu Nidito Children and Family Services
    3922 N. Mountain Avenue
    Tucson, AZ 85719

  • Janice

    This is an appreciation to both journalists on today’s On Point – Mr. Jeffrey Zaslow for his ingenuity in capturing Prof. Pauch’s brilliant and inspiring final months and to Ms. Jane Clayson for her empathetic interview.

    Ms. Clayson consistently respects the intelligence of the On Point audience by asking the right questions, and then getting out of the way to allow the guest to respond.

    It is refreshing to hear the host LISTEN.

    Thanks to all on the radio and behind the scenes for this program. It makes a difference.


  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    This was an exceptional show and like Janice said above, Jane Clayson did an outstanding job of letting the story tell itself but also allowing us to understand that she was and is emotionally moved by it.

    I had seen the video on youTube but this show gave so much more context to the story. Well done.

  • http://www.roseparkadvisors.com Whitney Johnson

    What an excellent interview today. I tuned in during the last half hour, and found myself riveted. Not only by the story, but Jane Clayson’s masterful ability to draw out the story. It was a moving few moments — thank you to NPR, Jane Clayson, and Mr. Zazlow.

    My best,
    Whitney Johnson

  • ACM

    Thank you for covering Dr. Pausch’s work on this program.

    Will you make this episode available on iTunes podcast?


  • http://www.shiningmoments.net Georgia Weithe

    I am so happy Randy Pausch has given a new face to death and dying, as well as life and living. Thanks to him, many people will find the courage to face the fact that death is a part of life. When we accept that life doesn’t go on forever, every day becomes more precious.

    When I was accompanying my father on his end-of-life journey, I learned that death is a teacher and a friend. Three things death taught me about living are:
    *Live your life so you have no regrets
    *Acknowledge the presence of those you love and honor your spouse or partner, your children and your friends because you may not have another day to improve the quality of your relationships
    *Admit to yourself that life is fleeting and all things as we know them will come to an end; then out of the awareness of the endings, create new beginnings.

    I’d like to share my positive thoughts about facing death with others at http://www.shiningmoments.net.

    Thank you for this wonderful show, and keeping Randy’s uplifting message alive.

  • Rich

    I just watched the Last Lecture (and listened to the podcast version of On Point). I guess I’m going to get booed or something because my reaction was: That’s it? That’s the famous last lecture? A list of simplistic platitudes and hokey sayings and a boring biography? I thought we were over all this a decade ago with the All I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarter books.

    Is it very sad that Prof Pausch had an aweful diagnosis and that he died? Absolutely. Is it a tragedy for his family? You betcha.

    But evaluating the lecture (as well as the On Point show), I have to say it’s disappointing and pretty empty. Nothing new or interesting was said in either. Can it be inspirational? Sure, I guess. Go to a children’s cancer ward and inspiration is a dime a dozen there too. But I just found it a little too self-helpy and trite.

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