Randy Pausch: Grace under pressure

While browsing Metafilter — one of my favourite sites of all time — I came across the incredible story of Randy Pausch, a computer-science professor at Carnegie-Mellon and pioneer in the field of virtual reality who is dying of cancer. Even though he had about 12 tumors in his liver at the time he made this video presentation, and was given no more than three months to live, he appeared as healthy as any 46-year-old — and even dropped to the stage and did several one-handed pushups to prove it.

The video presentation, which he gave at Carnegie-Mellon to a packed auditorium, is called “The Last Lecture,” and is a tribute to his friends and colleagues, mentors and partners, his parents and his wife (the couple have three young children). He talks about his childhood dreams, and how he achieved or came close to achieving most of them — from being an astronaut (he flew on the Vomit Comet astronaut trainer) to writing an article in the World Book Encyclopedia and working at Disney as an Imagineer.

Along the way, he describes the lessons he learned in how to achieve your dreams, and how much fun it is to help others achieve theirs. Among other things, Pausch created a pioneering cross-disciplinary program in artificial reality at CMU, and also started the Alice project, which uses game design and video to help teach young students — and particularly young women — how to program and design video games.

I have to say that even without knowing Dr. Pausch, it’s difficult to watch the end of this video — when he effectively says goodbye to all of his friends, students and colleagues for the last time — without getting verklempt.

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