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National

A Dying Professor's Last Lecture

ALISON STEWART, host:

And now for something which is making the rounds in the Internet - not a video of a stupid beauty pageant contestant or a nerdy guy singing about "Chocolate Rain." It's a video of a tape of a professor taking part in what was originally called a last lecture series. The concept is a professor gives a lecture as if it was his or her last.

Carnegie Mellon professor and virtual reality pioneer Randy Pausch was one of those professors, and he gave a speech titled "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." However, this lecture really could have been Pausch's last.

(Soundbite of video, "Last Lecture")

Professor RANDY PAUSCH (Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction and Design, Carnegie Mellon University): In case there's anybody who wandered in and doesn't know the back story, my dad always taught me when there's an elephant in the room, introduce them. If you look at my CAT scans, there are approximately 10 tumors in my liver. And the doctors told me three to six months of a good health left. That was a month ago, so you can do the math.

STEWART: And that speech was given on September 18th, for those who want to do the math. Forty-six-year-old father of three Randy Pausch has terminal pancreatic cancer. But watching this video, you would have never guessed it. He's outrageously energetic as he bounds around the stage, giving a slideshow of his life and the lessons he learned along the way. Some of the stuff, well, it's basically common sense and you can get it from any self-help book, but it is somehow much more effective coming from this man's mouth.

Prof. PAUSCH: Get a feedback loop and listen to it. Your feedback loop can be this dorky spreadsheet thing I did, or it can just be one, great man who tells you what you need to hear. The hard part is the listening to it. Anybody can get chewed out, all right? It's the rare person who says, oh, my God, you are right.

LUKE BURBANK, host:

That's Professor Randy Pausch from his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University. If you want to know how he's doing, last week, the one-time athlete got to practice with one of his favorite teams - the Pittsburg Steelers, who then promptly stomped my Seattle Seahawks. Connected? Maybe. Possibly.

We're going to link to the full lecture on our blog: npr.org/bryantpark. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.