Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor who became a YouTube phenomenon with his “Last Lecture”’ died Friday of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 47. He died at his home in southern Virginia.
Pausch told USA TODAY during an interview at his home in March that the now-famous lecture was never meant for public consumption, nor was it for his colleagues or students. It was for his two sons and daughter: Dylan, 6, Logan, 3, and Chloe, 2. “If people are finding inspiration, OK, but the book is for my kids,” Pausch said.
“I knew what I was doing that day,” he wrote in the introduction of his best-selling book, also titled The Last Lecture. “Under the ruse of giving an academic lecture, I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children.”
Quoting Steve Seabolt, V.P –strategic marketing and friend and colleague of Randy Pausch at EA giving the intro –
“….it really pisses me off that Randy’s so smart—actually I called him, we decided about, what, four weeks, ago and we heard the news (of his fewer days ahead) went from bad to horrific. It was on a Wednesday night and I said look – we have two choices. We can play this really straight and very emotional , or we can go to dark humor. And for those of you who know Randy well, he was like oh, dark humor! So I called him the next day and I was like, dude you can’t die. And he’s like, what do you mean? And I said, well, when you die, the average of IQ of Seabolt’s friends is going to like drop 50 points. [laughter] To which he responded, we need to find you some smarter friends. [laughter] So you’re all smart because you’re here, so if you want to be my friend, I’ll be over in a corner of the reception room.”
Excerpts from the inspirational lecture –
“We can’t change the cards we’re dealt, just how we play the hand. If I’m not as depressed as you think I should be, I’m sorry to disappoint you.”
…..Alright, so what we’re not talking about today, we are not talking about cancer, because I spent a lot of time talking about that and I’m really not interested. If you have any herbal supplements or remedies, please stay away from me. [laughter] And we’re not going to talk about things that are even more important than achieving your childhood dreams. We’re not going to talk about my wife, we’re not talking about my kids. Because I’m good, but I’m not good enough to talk about that without tearing up. So, we’re just going to take that off the table. That’s much more important. And we’re not going to talk about spirituality and religion, although I will tell you that I have achieved a deathbed conversion. [dramatic pause] … I just bought a Macintosh. [laughter and clapping] Now I knew I’d get 9% of the audience with that …
OK, let’s talk about football. My dream was to play in the National Football League. And most of you don’t know that I actually – no. [laughter] No, I did not make it to the National Football League, but I probably got more from that dream and not accomplishing it than I got from any of the ones that I did accomplish. I had a coach, I signed up when I was nine years old. I was the smallest kid in the league, by far. And I had a coach, Jim Graham, who was six-foot-four, he had played linebacker at Penn State. He was just this hulk of a guy and he was old school. And I mean really old school. Like he thought the forward pass was a trick play. [laughter] And he showed up for practice the first day, and you know, there’s big hulking guy, we were all scared to death of him. And he hadn’t brought any footballs. How are we going to have practice without any footballs? And one of the other kids said, excuse me coach, but there’s no football. And Coach Graham said, right, how many men are on a football field at a time? Eleven on a team, twenty-two. Coach Graham said, all right, and how many people are touching the football at any given time? One of them. And he said, right, so we’re going to work on what those other twenty-one guys are doing. And that’s a really good story because it’s all about fundamentals. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work.
And the other Jim Graham story I have is there was one practice where he just rode me all practice. You’re doing this wrong, you’re doing this wrong, go back and do it again, you owe me, you’re doing push-ups after practice. And when it was all over, one of the other assistant coaches came over and said, yeah, Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn’t he? I said, yeah. He said, that’s a good thing. He said, when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up. And that’s a lesson that stuck with me my whole life. Is that when you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.
After Coach Graham, I had another coach, Coach Setliff, and he taught me a lot about the power of enthusiasm. He did this one thing where only for one play at a time he would put people in at like the most horrifically wrong position for them. Like all the short guys would become receivers, right? It was just laughable. But we only went in for one play, right? And boy, the other team just never knew what hit them. Because when you’re only doing it for one play and you’re just not where you’re supposed to be, and freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, boy are you going to clean somebody’s clock for that one play.”
To Prof.Pausch, I bow in reverence and bid him farewell – “Randy Pausch, R.I.P”