A Dying Professor's Words To Live By

Randy Pausch
Randy Pausch

All great speeches get a standing ovation at the end, but only great people get them at the beginning too, reports CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman.

Randy Pausch, 46, is a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University -- a nerd from the get-go.

His mom, Virginia, says in Randy's room, Farrah Fawcett posters were shunned in favor of the fuller-figured quadratic formula. Every wall shows what a bright, quirky mind he had. Later, her son became one of the nation's foremost authorities on virtual reality.

"It's beyond me," Virginia says, "I'm an English major."

"After I got my Ph.D, my mother took great relish in introducing me as, 'He's a doctor, but not the kind that helps people.'"
Obviously, this last lecture had nothing to do with virtual reality. His last lecture included singing Happy Birthday to his wife and showing pictures of his kids. In fact, his last lecture was just that.

"There's been a tradition for years and years around college campuses of the last lecture," Randy explains. "If you had one last lecture to give before you died, what would you tell your students?"

To watch Randy Pausch's speech, click here
For most professors it's nothing more than a gimmick, but for Dr. Randy Pausch, the title "last lecture" was all too literal.

Just over a year ago, Randy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And, although it is spreading, it has yet to reach his sense of humor.

"I will tell you I experienced a deathbed conversion ... I just bought a Macintosh ... I don't know how to not have fun. I'm dying and I'm having fun and I'm going to keep having fun every day I have left, because there's no other way to play it."
"But let me be clear," says Randy. "I'm not happy about what's going to happen. Leaving three little kids... that stinks."

Randy says it's a 50/50 chance that he will be here for Christmas. And of Father's Day he says, "I wouldn't buy me anything."

"If you lead your life the right way, the Karma will take care of itself, the dreams will come to you. And anybody who is out there who's a parent - if your kids want to paint the bedroom - as a favor to me, let them do it. It will be OK. Don't worry about the resale value of the house."
Since Randy gave this talk a couple weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded it off the Internet.

"I think there's going to be a whole new generation of kids who are allowed to paint on their bedroom walls," he joked of the response to the speech.

He's also had dozens of media inquiries.

"Why do we all want to hear from you now that we don't have much time to hear from you?" Hartman asked.

"It's sort of like the Disney movies that only come out once every seven years: scarcity creates value," says Randy. "It really is quite interesting: A year-and-a-half ago, I could have given that same speech. There are two things that were different. One, I wouldn't have had the moral authority to speak on how to lead your life. And two, I wouldn't have given myself the permission to say it."

The irony is, although thousands have seen the speech, it was written for just three. Randy hopes Dylan, Logan and Chloe will watch this someday and know their dad just a little bit more.

"Do you have to go?" asks Hartman.

"Man, I don't like having to go," he says. "I don't want to go. I like living."