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'Last Lecture' Professor Randy Pausch Dies at 47

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon computer-science professor with terminal cancer whose "Last Lecture" became a YouTube sensation in late 2007, died early Friday morning.

Pausch died at his home in Chesapeake, Va., where he had moved from Pittsburgh last fall to be closer to relatives, said Carnegie Mellon spokeswoman Anne Watzman.

Pausch's wife, Jai, put out a statement early Friday thanking "the millions of people who have offered their love, prayers and support."

"Randy was so happy and proud that the lecture and book inspired parents to revisit their priorities, particularly their relationships with their children," she said. "The outpouring of cards and e-mails really sustained him."

"He was a brilliant researcher and gifted teacher," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon in a statement run by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Carnegie Mellon — and the world — are better places for having had Randy Pausch in them."

On Thursday, an unnamed friend of Pausch's had posted on his behalf to the news page of Pausch's personal area on the Carnegie Mellon Web site.

"A biopsy last week revealed that the cancer has progresed [sic] further than we had thought from recent PETscans," the posting read in part. "Since last week, Randy has also taken a step down and is much sicker than he had been."

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Pausch had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006, and found out it was incurable in August 2007 after it had spread to other organs. He was given 6 months to live.

A professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design, Pausch was known for his flamboyance and showmanship as a teacher and mentor. He also was recognized as a pioneer in virtual-reality research.

On Sept. 24, he gave a speech entitled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" to an audience of faculty and students on the Carnegie Mellon campus in Pittsburgh.

In it, Pausch stressed the importance of living the life he had always dreamed of instead of concentrating on impending death.

Video clips of the speech posted to YouTube under the title "The Last Lecture" quickly became popular, and Pausch found himself the subject of newspaper and TV coverage.

The Wall Street Journal and ABC News did long profiles on him, and the former was expanded into a best-selling book entitled "The Last Lecture" published in April.

Pausch rehashed his lecture on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and testified before a Congressional subcommittee about pancreatic cancer.

There were fringe benefits as well: Pausch was invited to join the Pittsburgh Steelers for a day's practice, and, as a long-time Trekkie, he got a bit part and a line of dialogue in the upcoming "Star Trek" movie.

He deemed the latter "a truly magical experience," got to keep his costume and donated his $217.06 paycheck to charity.

Pausch had said he was embarrassed and flattered by the popularity of his message.

"The lecture was for my kids, but if others are finding value in it, that is wonderful," Pausch wrote on his Web site. "But rest assured; I'm hardly unique."

In the lecture, Pausch told a packed auditorium at Carnegie Mellon he had fulfilled almost all his childhood dreams — being in zero gravity, writing an article in the World Book Encyclopedia and working with the Walt Disney Co.

The one that eluded him? Playing in the National Football League.

"If I don't seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you," Pausch said.

He then joked about his quirky hobby of winning stuffed animals at amusement parks and how his mother introduced him to people to keep him humble: "This is my son — he's a doctor, but not the kind that helps people."

The speech was part of a series Carnegie Mellon called "The Last Lecture," where professors were asked to think about what matters to them most and give a hypothetical final talk. The name of the lecture series was changed to "Journeys" before Pausch spoke, something he joked about.

"I thought, 'Damn, I finally nailed the venue and they renamed it,'" he said.

The deal for "The Last Lecture" book, co-written with Wall Street Journal reporter Jeffrey Zaslow, was reported to be worth more than $6 million. Pausch dictated the book to Zaslow via cell phone because he wanted to spend as much time as possible with his three children.

"It was the most fun 53 days of my life because it was like a performance. It was like getting 53 extra lectures," Zaslow told The Associated Press on Friday.

He recalled that Pausch only became emotional when they worked on the last chapter of the book, because that to him was the "end of the lecture, the book, his life."

"Otherwise, he was very strong and funny through the creation of the book," Zaslow said.

Pausch gave one more official lecture after his Carnegie Mellon appearance — in November at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he taught from 1988 to 1997.

On May 18, he gave a surprise commencement speech at Carnegie Mellon.

According to the Post-Gazette, Pausch said a friend had recently noted that he was "beating the [Grim] Reaper" because he'd lived 9 months instead of the 6 his doctor have predicted.

"We don't beat the reaper by living longer, we beat the reaper by living well and living fully," he retorted. "I think the only advice I can give you on how to live your life well is, first off, remember ... it's not the things we do in life that we regret on our deathbed, it is the things we do not."

What matters, he said, is that he can look back and say, "pretty much any time I got a chance to do something cool, I tried to grab for it, and that's where my solace comes from."

At the end of his remarks he kissed his wife, picked her up and carried her off stage.

Pausch received his bachelor's degree in computer science from Brown University and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he had initially been rejected from Carnegie Mellon's graduate program but talked his way back in.

He then taught at Charlottesville before returning to Carnegie Mellon.

During a 1998 visit to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to lecture on virtual reality, according to the Tribune-Review, he met his future wife.

"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 Tribune-Review. "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."

He co-founded Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center, a master's program for bringing artists and engineers together. The university named a footbridge in his honor.

He also created the Alice animation-based teaching program for high school and college students to have fun while learning computer programming.

In February, the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences in California announced the creation of the Dr. Randy Pausch Scholarship Fund for university students who pursue careers in game design, development and production.

Pausch blogged regularly about his medical treatment. On Feb. 15, exactly six months after he was told he had three to six months of healthy living left, Pausch posted a photo of himself to show he was "still alive & healthy."

"I rode my bike today; the cumulative effects of the chemotherapy are hurting my stamina some, but I bet I can still run a quarter-mile faster than most Americans," he wrote.

Pausch often emphasized the need to have fun.

"I mean I don't know how to not have fun. I'm dying and I'm having fun. And I'm going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there's no other way to play it," he said in his Carnegie Mellon lecture.

"You just have to decide if you're a Tigger or an Eeyore. I think I'm clear where I stand on the great Tigger/Eeyore debate. Never lose the childlike wonder. It's just too important. It's what drives us," he said.

He is survived by his wife and their children Dylan, 6, Logan, 4, and Chloe, 2; his mother, Virginia Pausch of Columbia, Md.; and a sister, Tamara Mason of Lynchburg, Va.

• Click here to watch 'The Last Lecture' in its entirety on YouTube.

• Click here for Randy Pausch's personal area on the Carnegie Mellon Web site.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.