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One of the most inspiring people, who wrote one of the most inspiring books, as taken from one of the most inspiring lectures (now you’ve guessed him, right?) has passed away from pancreatic cancer. Neil should add him to the list of those “Done Too Soon,” but this may well be one of the most documented and defined cases of someone’s last days being cause for greater impact and purposefulness.
Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch gave his last lecture at the university on September 18, 2007. It became a YouTube phenomenon and you can watch it here.
The message is pretty simple: how to achieve your childhood dreams and help others do the same. Ah, the beauty and simplicity that many of us long for. And the sublime pleasantness of it increases with the knowledge that he didn’t originally mean for it to have a large public profile. His main purpose was to write the book (and give the lecture) for his three kids.


Since April, when it came out, the book (“The Last Lecture”) has been on the best seller list and has now been translated into at least 30 languages. Simple teachings such as “Never underestimate the importance of having fun” and “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted” carry the kind of brilliance rarely found in, well, professors. It may not approach the sales numbers of Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life,” but it’s had a large impact among people of faith as well as those who don’t consider themselves as such.
Last year, Time listed Pausch one its list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. I suspect he’ll be there again this year and into the future. His was a different kind of art, but certainly one that can live on posthumously.
In tribute, donations can be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 2141 Rosecrans Ave., Suite 7000, El Segundo, CA 90245, or to Carnegie Mellon’s Randy Pausch Memorial Fund (www.cmu.edu/giving/pausch). If you would like to contribute to the memorial for Randy on Beliefnet Community, you can do so here.

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