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~ Steven Curtis Chapman and Boy Scout Heroes are Finalists for 9thAnnual Honor ~

New York, NY – December 10, 2008 – Beliefnet.com, the leading online community for inspiration and multi-faith spirituality, announced today that Professor Randy Pausch, whose “Last Lecture” video and bestselling book touched the hearts of millions of people around the world this year, has been named Beliefnet’s Most Inspiring Person of the Year for 2008. Prof. Pausch lost his valiant battle with pancreatic cancer this past July, and in the last months of his life, the video of his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University became an Internet phenomenon. An exclusive tribute gallery by Jeffrey Zaslow, co-author of Pausch’s book can be found at: http://www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/Most-Inspiring-2008/index.aspx.

Three finalists for 2008 were chosen by readers’ votes, and include Pausch and award-winning Christian Music Artist Steven Curtis Chapman, who sustained his family’s spirit and faith through the tragic loss of his daughter; as well as the heroic Boy Scouts from Iowa’s Little Sioux Scout Ranch, who rescued community members and friends when a devastating tornado ripped through their western Iowa camp site. Pausch was selected from the three finalists by Beliefnet editors as this year’s honoree. Upon learning of her husband’s designation as Most Inspiring Person of the Year, Jai Pausch said "I am grateful that Randy continues to touch so many people. Thank you." A donation will be made in honor of Prof. Pausch to the charity of his family’s choice.

“Randy Pausch inspired millions by teaching us how to live life well and wisely, and how to confront death,” said Steven Waldman, Editor-in-Chief of Beliefnet. “In a time when the Internet is known for odd and often frivolous viral phenomena, this is an example of how new media can spread inspiration and hope in a dynamic and meaningful way—Randy Pausch is one of the clearest examples we have of the powerful impact one human spirit can have on another.”

Pausch’s lecture, delivered for a small audience at Carnegie Mellon University where he was a professor of computer science, reached more people than he dreamed possible. People all over the world uploaded his inspirational words and strategies for getting the most out of life, and forwarded them to friends—as they still do today. To date, nearly 20 million people have been impacted by his simple yet powerful message, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

The Most Inspiring Person of the Year award is a yearly recognition by Beliefnet readers and editors acknowledging noteworthy humanitarian actions that inspire and encourage others to live better lives. The honor is bestowed upon one of ten nominees seen to have risen high above expectations and who demonstrates courage, forgiveness, self-sacrifice and love under difficult and challenging circumstances. To assemble this year’s contenders, editors conducted a year-long search for ten extraordinary candidates who were nominated for the honor.

In addition to those mentioned above, this year’s nominees included:

• Paul Newman―Beloved Film Star and Philanthropist Who Built a Life by Doing Good for Others
Academy Award Winner and generous humanitarian, Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camps for seriously ill children give hundreds of thousands of kids an opportunity to laugh, play and enjoy the fresh air, green grass and sunshine.
• Master Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson―Oklahoma Marine Who Returned to Iraq Despite Devastating War Injuries
After doctors amputated his leg above the knee as a result of a combat injury, 19-year veteran Master Sgt. Gibson refused whole-heartedly to think of himself as disabled. “Born to be a Marine,” Gibson retrained with gusto, and returned to battle with a prosthetic leg; he proudly serves his country to this very day.
• Dr. Halima Bashir―Sudanese Doctor Brutalized for Condemning Darfur Horrors
Bashir’s memoir relates how she was brutally punished for medically treating the injured and then declaiming the rape and torture of young girls who are being traumatized by government-backed rapists in Darfur. Her breathtaking life story and passionate commitment to speaking out against violence on behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves has inspired millions.
• Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor―Amazing Story of Stroke and Recovery by a Brain Scientist Who Views Her Experience as a Gift to Others
A doctor who spent her life studying the human brain awoke to discover that she was having a massive stroke herself. As she watched her own brain deteriorate she reached a profound level of spirituality and understanding that eventually inspired her to change the course of her life and share new knowledge with the world.
• Christina Applegate―Vivacious Actress and Breast Cancer Survivor Passionate About Raising Awareness and Helping Other Women Find the Treatment They Need
The well-known actress has risen as an inspiration to women everywhere. When her mother was stricken with the disease, she became a passionate crusader for breast cancer awareness and finding a cure. Now a breast cancer survivor herself, she continues to inspire and motivate others to join the fight against this deadly disease.
• Dara Torres―Olympic Swimming Medalist and Selfless Competitor
At the Beijing Olympics this past summer, 41-year-old Dara Torres hauled in three silver medals for Team USA, to become the oldest swimming medalist in Olympic history. But many considered Torres' most valiant and inspiring moment to be her instinctive and selfless gesture to help a competitor—stopping the clock seconds before the race.
• Darin Headrick―Reuniting a Tornado-torn Community by Rebuilding Its Schools
When ten people died and 95 percent of tiny Greensburg, Kansas was destroyed by a two mile wide tornado, Superintendent of Schools Darin Headrick spearheaded efforts to get the school system back up and running better than ever before. His environmentally-friendly “green” schools gave students and families hope and a reason to stay and grow with the new community they pledged to build.

Last year’s honor went to Virginia Tech Professor, leader and mentor Liviu Librescu in acknowledgement of the selfless courage and deep spirituality when he sacrificed his life for his beloved students. Previous honorees also included the Amish Community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, in recognition of their remarkable spirit of forgiveness in reaction to the murder of five young girls from their tight-knit community.

Beliefnet’s Most Inspiring Person of the Year for 2008 is sponsored by Liberty Mutual's The Responsibility Project. Please check out: http://www.responsibilityproject.com/.


About Beliefnet
Beliefnet, winner of the 2007 National Magazine Award for General Excellence Online, is the largest multi-faith online community for spirituality and inspiration. Its mission is to help people find and walk a spiritual path that instills comfort, hope, clarity, strength and happiness for people who are exploring their own faith or curious about other spiritual traditions. Beliefnet offers a wide variety of resources including social networking tools, articles, quizzes, devotionals, sacred text searches, photo galleries and intimate interviews with noted politicians, celebrities and spiritual leaders. Beliefnet has approximately three million unique visitors each month and a daily email newsletter readership of nearly 11 million subscribers. The company, which is a subsidiary of Fox Digital Media and Fox Entertainment Group, is not affiliated with any spiritual organization or movement, and has partnerships with TIME magazine, Yahoo!, and Chicken Soup for the Soul.

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