UVA remembers 'Last Lecture' prof Pausch

Randy Pausch spoke before a packed Cabell Hall in November 2007.

Former UVA computer science professor Randy Pausch, who inspired millions through his "last lecture" on YouTube and best-selling advice book, died Friday of complications from pancreatic cancer at the age of 47 at his home in Chesapeake.

UVA computer science professor Gabriel Robins remembers his mentor and friend as full of energy.

"Life around him was like Alice in Wonderland," says Robins. "Strange but wonderful things would happen."

Pausch taught computer science at UVA from 1988-1997 before joining the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, and the following year he gave a 76-minute speech titled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" that quickly circulated on the Internet and has now been viewed over 10 million times.

"He turned cancer and a death sentence into the ultimate teaching tool," says Robins.

In the lecture, Pausch used an experience from his time at UVA to illustrate the importance of phrasing. Former UVA provost Gene Block, whom Pausch referred to as "the most fantastic man in the world," and an unnamed dean whom Pausch (borrowing from Animal House) dubbed "Dean Wormer" had the same basic hesitation with one of Pausch's proposed ideas–- but their reactions were different.

"They're both ways of saying 'I don't know,'" Pausch said, "but, boy, there's a good way and a bad way."

Pausch returned to UVA in November to give a talk on time management before a packed house at Cabell Hall, a lecture that became part of an hour-long ABC news special and where, Robins says, hundreds of people were turned away.

Pausch's wisdom took written form in April when Hyperion published The Last Lecture, penned with Wall Street Journal reporter Jeffrey Zaslow.

While Pausch's book is a New York Times best-seller, Robins says he cared about only the first three copies of the book–- those for his children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe. "He did it for them," says Robins.

In addition to being a gifted speaker, Pausch was a pioneer in virtual reality. He co-founded Carnegie-Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center and created Alice, an interactive computing program.

Pausch's dedication and energy were contagious to his students, according to UVA computer science professor Alfred Weaver, who met him when he first came to UVA in 1988.

"He was so enthusiastic that it spilled over into everything he did," Weaver says.


1 comment

Randy Pausch was a person with a legacy to be remembered by all those living and yet to be born. That is what the term 'resonance' means.