Jeffrey Zaslow speaks on Pausch at Convocation

During Thursday’s Convocation, Jeffrey Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal columnist and co-author of The Last Lecture, lamented on the July 25 death of his friend Randy Pausch, a cancer-stricken Carnegie Mellon professor made famous by his inspirational Last Lecture.

Zaslow spoke on his experiences with Pausch, and told first-years how much Pausch would have loved to be there himself.

“Randy was a time management freak and he wanted me to tell you today that you think money is limited, but time is limited,” Zaslow said. “All of us have limited time. You feel like you’re young, but make good use of your time.”

Zaslow first came in contact with Pausch when he came to Carnegie Mellon to cover the Sept. 25 Last Lecture in his column.

“When the lecture ended, I saw Randy on the street, right down here on Forbes, and he told me he was going home to spend whatever time he had left with his wife and kids,” Zaslow said. “That was it, it was over. And I thought that I’d never see the man again and I’ll try to write a good column about him.”

However, for Zaslow, this journey was and still is far from over.

In April, Zaslow and Pausch would publish The Last Lecture, which, four months later, is still number one in The New York Times Best Sellers list.

Zaslow explained Pausch’s popularity in both his Carnegie Mellon lecture and his book.

“He was authentic in that he was telling it from his heart and he was dying — but not any dying person could do that. Randy had a charisma. Most people we think of that are dying are in their deathbeds but Randy stood there and he was smiling and he was doing push-ups right there.”

The majority of the people that read and watched Pausch’s videos never knew him. But for Zaslow, who knew him personally, his passing had even more significance.

“Before he died we were trading e-mails and I would google his name. I would send him all these links and he finally sent me an e-mail that said stop googling and go hug your kids,” Zaslow said. “I do think of him, I dreamt of him the other night. I would like to think that when I die I will try to make it the adventure that he made the last few months of his life.”

Zaslow was not the only one talking about Pausch during Convocation.

Student Body President Jared Itkowitz, a senior business administration and Chinese studies major, mentioned Pausch’s legacy during his Convocation speech to ease incoming first-years into the world of Carnegie Mellon.

“With his ‘Last Lecture,’ Randy Pausch left us with the challenge of finding our passion and achieving our childhood dreams. Our dreams await us. This education is one of the most important tools that we are given to make those dreams real,” Itkowitz said.

The Convocation speeches were just one of many places where Pausch’s presence could be felt during Orientation.

Jessica Hersh, a first-year professional writing major, commented that the Orientation theme related particularly to Pausch’s Last Lecture.

“I think that he would have approved of the breaking the molds theme with his emphasis on overcoming your brick walls and trying something new and I think that our orientation has definitely taken that to heart,” Hersh said.

All first-years received a copy of The Last Lecture in their university welcome packets, and the book was discussed during Orientation week in book groups.

Hersch was impressed by Pausch’s book.

“I really liked reading The Last Lecture for summer reading,” Hersch said. “This was a real-life situation that could shape your attitude and hopefully give you a better outlook when coming to college.”

Chris Simundson, a first-year mechanical engineering major, noted the many times Pausch was mentioned during Orientation week.

“Randy Pausch was certainly brought up a lot this week,” Simundson said. “I can see why people would want to say that it embodies Carnegie Mellon.”

Although Pausch’s last appearance at Carnegie Mellon was during Commencement 2008, his spirit and philosophies continue to live on and inspire new generations at the university.