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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

CMU Prof Pausch Dies of Pancreatic Cancer

July 25, 2008

By The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jul. 25–Randy Pausch was given the rare opportunity to know he had only a limited amount of life left.

He used it.

The Carnegie Mellon University professor who gained worldwide acclaim for a lecture he gave at the university died today of pancreatic cancer. He was 47.

Pausch moved to Chesapeake, Va., last year to be close to family.

On his Web site yesterday, a friend posted that Pausch’s cancer had progressed further than anyone expected. According to the blog entry, Pausch was too sick to continue posting and had entered hospice.

Doctors told Pausch in August 2006 that the advanced cancer would kill him in a matter of months. The father of three young children then gave a speech about achieving childhood dreams.

The bittersweet speech was recorded by Carnegie Mellon and posted on the Internet. According to Carnegie Mellon, more than six million people viewed the lecture, and it was translated into at least four languages. Pausch made appearances on “Good Morning America” and “Oprah.”

The professor then wrote 206-page book called “The Last Lecture” with the Wall Street Journal’s Jeffrey Zaslow that was published in April. In the book Pausch shared the lessons he learned during his life.

His wife, Jai, encouraged him to write the book as a “manual” for her and the kids. Pausch treated it as a way to give their children — Dylan, 6; Logan, 4; and Chloe, 2 — an enduring sense of who he was and what he wished for them.

The week before he gave the speech that made him a celebrity, Pausch said he wanted his children to remember him “as a guy who cared about them, and about their mother, very, very much. And as a guy who believed that each day was to be lived to the fullest, and that a positive attitude will get you a lot farther than anything else.”

Pausch first arrived at Carnegie Mellon in 1982 as a last-ditch effort to get into the university’s graduate program. Though previously rejected, Pausch convinced the school to admit him. In 1988 he earned his doctorate and taught for seven years at the University of Virginia before returning to Carnegie Mellon, this time as a computer science professor.

At Carnegie Mellon, Pausch co-founded the Entertainment Technology Center with drama and arts professor Don Marinelli. The center unites computer science and fine art students on projects that find an entertaining way to bring technology to audiences.

Pausch oversaw the development of Alice, free software that teaches children computer programming in a fun, engaging way. More than 10 percent of U.S. colleges use the program, and there are more than 1 million downloads of it annually.

During a visit in 1998 to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to give a lecture on virtual reality, Pausch met and fell in love with Jai. They were married in 2000 and lived in Shadyside.

“I’d been a bachelor for 39 years and, as they say, you know in a moment when it’s different,” Pausch said in an interview with the Trib shortly after learning his cancer would be fatal. “She’s one of the only people I’d ever met who could stand up to me, and her wit and beauty compelled me to want to spend the rest of my life with her.”

Given the chance to contribute to his own obituary, Pausch — a disciplined saver who hoped for the best but planned for the worst — requested the following message be passed on to readers:

“In lieu of flowers,” he said, “use the money to increase your life insurance if you have kids.”

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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