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Culture

A computer scientist who doesn't include 'give up' in his lexicon

When I finally make my exit from this world, I hope I have a fraction of the courage of Randy Pausch.

Two years ago, I lost my best friend to pancreatic cancer. So when I heard about Randy Pausch, a celebrated professor of computer science battling the same disease, and his amazing "last lecture" at Carnegie Mellon, I had more than passing interest in what he had to say.

Randy Pausch

An expert in video game and virtual-reality technology, Pausch was diagnosed with cancer a year earlier. But his struggle to stave off a death sentence didn't lead to a morose farewell. (Though he did confess to experiencing a deathbed conversion: "I just bought a Macintosh.")

Instead, what the audience at Carnegie Mellon heard was a passionate celebration of life, however short, and lessons learned. (Here's a link to the video.) Pausch broke the ice by asking rhetorically if there were one last lecture to give before you die, what would it be? He then proceeded to deliver one of the most powerful disquisitions I've ever seen on what it means to be human. The Wall Street Journal's Jeff Zaslow, whose tender profile brought Pausch to national notice, has now co-authored a book with the professor expanding on that singular lecture. The publication date is next week.

The latest update: Pausch's doctors say that he's added a extra tumor (his 11th). The good news is that he's now off chemo and expects to be back on a bike within the next couple of weeks. Peddle up a storm, bro.