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Randy Pausch Passes Away (1960 – 2008)

Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist whose “last lecture” about facing terminal cancer became an Internet sensation and a best-selling book, died Friday. He was 47.

Randy Pausch taught Building Virtual Worlds [3], a class that started sometime in my sophmore or junior year, at Carnegie Mellon University and was a force on campus even before his famous Last Lecture. I always wanted to take Building Virtual Worlds but demand for the class was tremendous those first few years. I wasn’t going to get in the first few years it was offered but I’m upset I didn’t try harder. The class was well known around campus and it’s not surprising he was able to turn that into the ETC.

In listening to his Last Lecture, I understood where all his passion and his energy came from. He was following every dream he had and is an inspiration. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend watching it, you’ll be inspired.

Here’s his Last Lecture:

The following email was sent to CMU Alumni from President Jared Cohen:

Dear Alumni:
It is with great sadness that I inform you that our dear friend and colleague Randy Pausch passed away today, July 25, after a brave struggle against pancreatic cancer.

Randy captured the minds and hearts of millions worldwide with his Carnegie Mellon lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” and his book, “The Last Lecture.”

Randy, who earned his doctorate from Carnegie Mellon in 1988, returned to the university in 1997 as an associate professor of human-computer interaction and computer science. Along with Carnegie Mellon Professor Don Marinelli, Randy was the co-founder of the Entertainment Technology Center, a leading interactive multimedia education and entertainment center.

At Carnegie Mellon, Randy was also the director of the Alice software project, a revolutionary way to teach computer programming. The interactive Alice program teaches computer programming by having kids make animated movies and games. A fitting legacy to Randy’s life and work, Alice may in the future help to reverse the dramatic drop in the number of students majoring in computer science at colleges and universities. Randy was also known as a pioneer in the development of virtual reality, and he created the popular Building Virtual Worlds class.

An award-winning teacher and researcher, Randy was also a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator and a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow. He used sabbatical leaves to work at Walt Disney Imagineering and Electronic Arts (EA), and he consulted with Google Inc. on user interface design. He is the author or co-author of five books and more than 70 articles.

Perhaps the greatest lesson, however, Randy taught us all was how to live, even in the face of great challenges, and how to follow our passion. While Randy’s greatest passion was clearly his family, he did not shy from sharing his passion for his work as a professor, for his students, and for Carnegie Mellon. We will miss Randy, but we will carry the memory of him and all that he did to make Carnegie Mellon a better university and each of us who knew him a better person.

A memorial service for Randy will be scheduled at a later date. For more information, visit www.cmu.edu.

Jared L. Cohon
President, Carnegie Mellon University


(Photo: nimboo [7])