Terminally ill husband, father and professor returns to Grounds to impart final thoughts
Nov. 12, 2007 — "Wow. What an honor to meet you," Oprah Winfrey said at the conclusion of her time with Randy Pausch when he appeared on her show Oct. 22.
Locally, a few more will have this same honor. On Nov. 27 at 3 p.m., Carnegie Mellon University professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and virtual reality technology pioneer Randy Pausch will deliver a lecture on "Time Management" in the University of Virginia's Old Cabell Hall Auditorium. The lecture may be among Pausch's last. He was told in August that his pancreatic cancer had progressed and he has three to six months of good health remaining.
The public coverage of Pausch's private ordeal began Sept. 18, when he participated in an academic tradition at Carnegie Mellon called "The Last Lecture," wherein top academics are asked to think deeply about what matters to them, and then give a hypothetical final talk.
"There was a giant elephant in the room that day," said Pausch a 46-year-old married father of three children (ages 1, 3 and 5). "For me, it wasn't hypothetical."
The lecture, titled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," attracted an onslaught of media attention. In addition to his Oprah appearance, he was named "Person of the Week" on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson on Sept. 21. His "Last Lecture" (www.cs.virginia.edu/robins/Randy) was viewed online more than a million times in the first month after its delivery.
Pausch was a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Virginia's School of Engineering and Applied Science from 1988 until 1997. He served as a mentor to many young faculty members, including Gabriel Robins, now a professor of computer science at U.Va.’s Engineering School, who was instrumental in bringing Pausch back to Grounds.
"Randy was such an inspiration to me as a young faculty member," says Robins. "The media portrays this man exactly as he is — bright, honest and sincere. I feel lucky to count him among my mentors. It is very rare to find a person that combines greatness, grace and courage the way Randy does. His legacy will continue to inspire people for a long, long time to come."
Pausch is the founder of the "Alice" software project, a computer animation design tool that makes creation of virtual worlds something that children can easily do without specialized knowledge of computers. The project, born at U.Va., is used in more than 10 percent of all universities and has proven highly effective in getting middle-school girls interested in computers.
Pausch received his bachelor's degree in computer science from Brown University and his Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon. He is the co-founder of CMU's Entertainment Technology Center, a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator and a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow. He has worked with Walt Disney Imagineering and Electronic Arts, and consulted with Google on user interface design. Pausch is also the author or co-author of five books and more than 70 articles.
"I knew Randy when we were both U.Va. Engineering School faculty members," says James H. Aylor, now dean of the Engineering School. "He absolutely deserves to be honored in this way. Randy is a brilliant man and a true humanitarian — a man whose integrity, intelligence and attitude about his current situation has moved millions."
The lecture is open to the public, but space is limited. Seats will be issued on a first come, first served basis. After the event, a video of the lecture will be posted at www.seas.virginia.edu/news/randy.php.