July 27, 2008

on Randy Pausch

Allison Druin wrote her thoughts about Randy Pausch's death better than I ever could, so here they are:


Last night I tried to write this email, but the words never came. All I could do was spend time with YouTube and Google, watching, reading, and thinking about Randy Pausch who died that day. As most of the world now knows, Randy was much more than a computer science/HCI/VR professor at CMU. He gave a talk last Fall, something most of us academics do day-in-and-day-out. But instead of enjoying the moment with a few students and perhaps some interested colleagues, the moment ultimately was shared with the world.

The video

Randy did something few of us could do-- he shared his thoughts, energies, and talents even as he was dying of cancer.

Ben B. and I were blessed with knowing Randy as a colleague and early mentor. Our first year at the HCIL, Randy attended the Annual Symposium

-- and it was then we first spent time with him, giving us advice that was a wonderful mix of dry wit, bold honesty, and endless energy. This may be the only way I can describe Randy last Fall in Pittsburgh, as we sat in the audience listening to Randy's last lecture. We cried, we laughed, we learned, and we felt honored to be there. After the lecture we were able to give Randy a big hug and tell him that he was our hero.

So after a long week at the HCIL filled with police, frustration, and sadness-- two bits of advice from Randy seem good to remember:

"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted."

"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand."

For more words about Randy and his passing:
Oh yes, and my favorite Randy-isms: "... remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people...Don't bail. The best of the gold's at the bottom of barrels..."

"...be prepared. Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity."



Dr. Allison Druin
Director, Human-Computer Interaction Lab
Associate Professor University of Maryland College of Information Studies and
Institute for Advanced Computer Studies

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