Randy Pausch, the professor at Carnegie Mellon University who inspired countless students in the classroom and others worldwide through his highly acclaimed last lecture, has died of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 47.
Also a Carnegie Mellon alumnus, Pausch co-founded the Entertainment Technology Center and led researchers who created Alice, a revolutionary way to teach computer programming. He was widely respected in academic circles for a unique interdisciplinary approach, bringing together artists, dramatists and designers to break new ground by working in collaboration with computer scientists.
Outside the classroom, he gained public fame for delivering what would come to be known as "The Last Lecture." On Sept. 18, 2007, only a month after doctors told him that he had three-to-six months to live following a recurrence of pancreatic cancer, he presented a lecture called "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" to a packed auditorium at Carnegie Mellon.
The moving and often humorous talk recounted his efforts to achieve such childhood dreams as becoming a professional football player, experiencing zero gravity and developing Disney World attractions. In the process, he shared his insights on finding the good in other people, working hard to overcome obstacles and living generously.
"If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself," Pausch said. "The dreams will come to you."
The video appeared on countless websites and has been viewed by millions. Appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, ABC's Good Morning America and the CBS Evening News followed.
A book version, "The Last Lecture" co-written by Jeff Zaslow of the Wall Street Journal (and a fellow Carnegie Mellon alumnus), became a best-seller upon its release this spring.
"Randy had an enormous and lasting impact on Carnegie Mellon," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon. "A brilliant researcher and gifted teacher, he was a key member of our Human-Computer Interaction Institute and co-founder of the Entertainment Technology Center. His love of teaching, his sense of fun and his brilliance came together in the Alice project, which teaches students computer programming while enabling them to do something fun — making animated movies and games. Carnegie Mellon — and the world — are better places for having had Randy Pausch in them."
Pausch was also a pioneer in the development of virtual reality, including creating the popular Building Virtual Worlds class.
A memorial service at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is being planned; details will be announced at a later date.
He is survived by his wife, Jai, and three children: Chloe, Dylan and Logan. The family requests that donations on his behalf be directed to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 2141 Rosecrans Ave., Suite 7000, El Segundo, CA 90245, or to Carnegie Mellon's Randy Pausch Memorial Fund, which the university will use primarily to support continued work on the Alice project.