Randy Pausch* — Carnegie Mellon University

Randy Pausch (October 23, 1960 – July 25, 2008) was a professor of computer science, human-computer interaction, and design at Carnegie Mellon University. Randy was a virtual reality pioneer, co-founder of CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center, and creator of the Alice software project. In 2006, Randy learned he had terminal pancreatic cancer and was given 3-6 months to live. He is widely known for “The Last Lecture”, a lecture given following a diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. He co-authored a book of the same name, which became a New York Times best-seller.

From 1988-1997 he was an assistant and associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Virginia in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

In 1997, Randy became Associate Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. In 1998, he was a co-founder, along with Don Marinelli, of CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), and he started the Building Virtual Worlds course at CMU, which he taught for 10 years. He consulted with Google on user interface design and also consulted with PARC, Imagineering, and Media Metrix. He completed sabbaticals at Walt Disney Imagineering and Electronic Arts (EA). Randy received the National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award and was a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow. He was the author or co-author of five books and over 70 articles.

Randy received two awards from ACM in 2007 for his achievements in computing education: the Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award and the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computer Science Education. He was also inducted as a Fellow of the ACM in 2007.

Randy delivered his “Last Lecture”, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”, at CMU on September 18, 2007. He gave an abridged version of his speech on The Oprah Winfrey Show in October 2007. The talk was modeled after an ongoing series of lectures where top academics are asked to think deeply about what matters to them, and then give a hypothetical “final talk”, with a topic such as “what wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?” Before speaking, Randy received a long standing ovation from a large crowd of over 400 colleagues and students. When he motioned them to sit down, saying, “Make me earn it”, someone in the audience shouted back, “You did!”

CMU president Jared Cohon announced that CMU would celebrate Randy’s impact on the world by building and naming after Randy a raised pedestrian bridge to connect CMU’s new Computer Science building and the Center for the Arts, symbolizing the way Randy linked those two disciplines. The Randy Pausch Memorial Footbridge was dedicated on October 30, 2009, with Jai, Dylan, Logan, and Chloe Pausch cutting the ribbon.

Randy received many high honors for his work and Last Lecture. The Pittsburgh City Council declared November 19, 2007 to be “Dr. Randy Pausch Day”. On May 30, 2008, Randy received a letter from then President George W. Bush thanking him for his commitment to the Nation’s youth. In May 2008, Randy was listed by Time as one of the World’s Top-100 Most Influential People.

* in memorium