By now, you’ve probably heard that Randy Pausch died Friday at the age of 47.
Though known in the field of computer science, he had gained world-wide fame from his wise, clever “last lecture” at Carnegie Mellon in the fall of 2007. At that time he had been told that because of aggressive pancreatic cancer, he had only months to live.
I remember being moved six months ago when I first listened to a recording of the lecture, but as I listened to it again today, I was struck by the character strengths he exhibited and also by what a model he was and is for academics– professors and students.
His work in virtual reality gave him the opportunity to use what must have been his signature strengths: creativity, love of learning, curiosity, and humor and playfulness. And his funny and insightful lecture showed him using those strengths to the fullest.
As important as the strengths of creativity and curiosity are, he also valued and used his strengths of perseverance, loyalty, gratitude, and love. He wanted his students and his children to remember how hard he worked and how he persevered to try new things.
He preached loyalty, and his own life was exemplary in loyalty, gratitude, and love. His family mattered, his students mattered, and his friends and colleagues mattered.
He had learned from a football coach that the way to show interest and caring is to stick with a student, giving constructive criticism and advice, and asking the student to work harder. He was grateful for those who had helped him as a youth and as a junior academic, and that gratitude gave him the desire to be loyal and generous with help to his own students.
Chris Peterson, who first brought Randy Pausch’s lecture to many people, recently wrote in his blog “The Good Life” that Pausch gave us a compelling example of an actual person who lived life well: “I watched his last lecture wearing many hats. As a teacher, I was inspired. As a lecturer, I was filled with admiration. As a human being, I was proud.”