"A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops."
Not to argue with Henry Adams, the 19th-century historian, novelist and academic, but former Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Randy Pausch got a pretty good idea during the last 10 months of his life.
Dr. Pausch, who died of pancreatic cancer yesterday, was a popular faculty member on the Oakland campus, but it was his poignant last lecture, delivered to a packed auditorium in September, that reached a worldwide audience.
It became a sensation on the Internet, viewed more than 10 million times, and spawned newspaper and television interviews, including one with Oprah Winfrey, a book at the top of The New York Times best-seller list and testimony before Congress on the need for research funding into the world's deadliest cancer.
The message of this 47-year-old husband, son and father of three was not about illness or dying but about living well and fulfilling childhood dreams. He spoke of gratitude, humility, hard work and looking for the best in people.
In astonishing fashion, he taught a universal lesson.