on being a prof, dying, & more

Updated: july 25

ABC’s “Good Morning America” reported Friday morning that Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, 47, has lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.

At a social function on Saturday evening, an article from Carnegie Mellon’s alumni magazine was brought to my attention. An alumna talked about a 46 year old professor of computer science, Randy Pausch, who is terminally ill and gave his last lecture in September as part of the university’s Journey series.

As soon as I got in, I watched all 76+ minutes of the lecture, but give you instead this video for a quick overview of the talk. If you want the entire lecture, it is right here.

Why it struck me? The professor in me is very empathetic … someone who has achieved so much in a career that I too chose, well, how can I not want to hear what he has to say. In addition, a recent post on a blog about career choices, well, it makes me ask many (far too many, perhaps) questions. Pausch entitled his talk Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. In my humble opinion, some noteworthy quotes are (from transcript):

One of the things he told me was that wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you. He said, when you’re pissed off at somebody and you’re angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time. Just give them a little more time and they’ll almost always impress you.

And that’s one of the reasons you should all become professors. Because you can have your cake and eat it too.

Go get a Ph.D. Become a professor.
And I said, why?
And he said, because you are such a good salesman that any company that gets you is going to use you as a salesman. And you might as well be selling something worthwhile like education.

Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

Where does inspiration come from? Well, I have to say this address gave me some…just enough to overcome some of my own fears and appreciate what I do have. Maybe my career choice and my childhood dreams may actually be one in the same. I can’t wait for the day when I can have my cake though 😉

3 pensieri riguardo “on being a prof, dying, & more

  1. Randy Pausch was featured Sunday in the “Parade” magazine that comes with many newspapers. I, too, found his thoughts about childhood dreams and career choice very interesting. Too often, I think, as both parents and advisors we keep our children/students from making bold choices that may make their lives more difficult. I will try to be more inspirational and less cautious as I work with my advisees. I will also try to be more patient, listen longer, and wait for others to impress me. How sad that Professor Pausch will not have a long life, but how generous to allow all of us to be inspired by him.

  2. Sharon, thanks for sharing your life lessons. I whole-heartedly agree with your comment equating our children with our students. I hadn’t considered his talk with respect to my daughter and you are right, I should. She’s 6 and now is a perfect time for me to inspire her as I hope to inspire my students. Hopefully, by the time she attends university, she will have made many choices to make her stronger and achieve those innocent and wonderful childhood dreams she now holds dear.

    P.S. I’m glad you mentioned the feature in Parade as I was able to read it this morning. Today is paper recycling day in the neighbourhood and someone had the magazine at the top of the pile. So, in the middle of my run, I stopped in my tracks, picked up the magazine and read the article. Not reading the inserts of Sunday papers is one of the downsides of reading online dailies only.


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