Monday, July 28, 2008

Randy Pausch: The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch (October 23, 1960 - July 25, 2008)

He died Friday, July 25, 2008 of pancreatic cancer.

He is known for The Last Lecture which was (maybe is) a series at Carnegie Mellon University. The idea for the series was if you knew this was your last lecture then what would you say.

Except that for Randy Pausch the lecture he gave on September 18, 2007 was his last because he knew he was dying and knew he had a relatively short time.

His lecture was entitled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." One reason he wanted to do it was so his kids could see him in action doing what he loved and was good at and have something to remember him. They are so young that at best their memories will not be very great. I'm certain in future years that they will be very interested in the video of their father's lecture.

You've probably heard about it the lecture. It is worth watching.

He wrote a book along with Jeffrey Zaslow titled "The Last Lecture." I just finished reading it.

I was surprised that there were 12 negative (well 1 star is the lowest you can give) ratings on Amazon's reader reviews.

Okay, I'll grant that his book is not great literature. But I personally found it inspiring and entertaining and informative and an all around good read.

I'm trying to think of just a few things about the book that I want to blog: things that made the book memorable for me and that I will likely carry with me for a while.

Certainly one thing is a chapter about Randy the child asking his parents permission to decorate the walls of his room. He was given that permission and the first thing he did was to write the formula for a quadratic equation on the wall next to the door. On the other side he painted an elevator door with lights for 6 floors and illuminated the 3rd one - in a single story ranch! The quadratic equation is something I might have done had I enjoyed my own wall. Heck I might still put up a quadratic equation. Or the function symbol - I like it a lot.

I enjoyed the chapters about his becoming a Disney Imagineer and achieving his dream of being weightless and the courtship of his wife. I also enjoyed the chapter about his football coach. And the chapters about his children.

Chapter 60 (I guess I recall that number because of recent events in my own life) was about his wife as caregiver, kind of. I was particularly interested in that one.

There's a chapter where he learns the cancer is back and has metastasized. He and his wife have been called to the hospital and are sitting in this examination room waiting on the doctor. There's a computer there and Randy is a computer guy. So he looks at it and recognizes his scans. He understands and tells his wife, "My goose is cooked." He starts counting the tumors on his liver. She says something like "Don't tell me you are counting tumors" which, of course, he was. They collapse in each others arms crying and the doc walks in.

I was fascinated with that chapter because he was balancing the emotional involvement of knowing he was dying on the one hand with the detachment of the curious observer on the other. I bet every Alzheimer's caregiver can appreciate that chapter or at least I certainly can.

He was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association but was raised Presbyterian. There is an interview here if you are interested in reading his thoughts on faith.

They put him in hospice on Thursday and he died on Friday.


Lori1955 said...

First of all, before you go painting a quadratic equation on your wall, I think you better check with Judy. Somehow I doubt that she will think it's a good idea.

Although I haven't read the book, I have seen the video of the last lecture. What a wonderful legacy to leave his kids.

I think though, if each of us were to write our own "Last Lecture", how different they would be from each others.

Rest in Peace, Randy.

flintysooner said...

I think I will decorate my office with quadratic equations and the function sign!

I still smile about the elevator door on his wall.

~Betsy said...

Dr. Pausch was somewhat of a folk hero around here, probably because Carnegie Mellon is located in Oakland - right next to The University of Pittsburgh. One of Nikki's friends from high school had him as a professor. I think he liked him a great deal.

I bought this book on CD for Dave for Father's Day. He has listened to it several times (he drives a lot for work and has little time to read. I find the CD's work well for him).

One of my favorite stories of Randy Pausch is when he got to practice with the Steelers. Diane Sawyer is running her interview with him Tuesday night at 10 PM. This is where you can see him practicing with the team.

There is a memorial walk scheduled for late summer in the same county park where my dad died. I think I'll check it out.