Inspirational Professor Given Part In Star Trek

Dr. Randy Pausch is a highly respected and honored professor of Computer Science and co-founder of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also a Trek fan. In November Dr. Pausch was offered a role to be in the new Star Trek movie, and it all started with a very special lecture he gave two months earlier.

In September Dr. Pausch gave a lecture titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” which was part of what is called “The Last Lecture” series. The series is designed for top lecturers around the country to impart what they feel are their most important life lessons, as if it were their last. What made Dr. Paush’s lecture special was that it really was his last. A year before his lecture Dr. Paush was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. But to see Professor Pausch’s humor-filled talk one would never know that he has been told that he only has months to live. The inspirational lecture was given to just 400 students, but it quickly went ‘viral’ on the Internet. Soon Dr. Paush was getting world-wide media coverage including The Today Show, ABC News, and even Oprah. This video from the Wall Street Journal summarizes the lecture and the subsequent coverage…

Apparently one of the people who was inspired was J.J. Abrams. In November on his personal health blog, Dr. Paush announced that he was contacted by the Star Trek director with the following email:

Dear Randy —

Hi there — I’m JJ Abrams, director of the new Star Trek movie. I read about you and your condition, and ALSO your affinity for things Trek.

So, I just wanted to put the invitation out there — that if you had any desire to be in the film (can’t promise you role as CAPTAIN, but… we could do SOMETHING!), it would be my honor and pleasure.

The last thing I want to do is intrude, so feel free not to reply — but I wanted to make sure you knew that, if you are willing and able, the door is wide open.

I hope that your treatments are going well and that we get to meet one day.


After being assured it wasn’t a friend pulling a joke, Dr. Paush was off to LA for his big film debut. On his site he writes of his experience:

I got a custom-made Star Trek uniform and my own station on the bridge, where I had lots of buttons and controls. I even got a LINE!!!!

In addition to publicly thanking JJ Abrams, I just wanted to say what an incredibly egoless and cool guy he was. We chatted a little bit between takes, and he is so tech-savvy (and I’m not saying that *just* because he knew all about Alice!). Anyway, it was a truly magical experience. has confirmed that Dr. Paush will indeed appear in the new Star Trek. Hopefully a year from today Dr. Paush will be able to see his work at the premiere of the new film. In a recent blog Dr. Paush writes that his latest chemotherapy treatments are working, but notes that his long term prognosis is unchanged. But his work will live on. His lectures have been made available copyright free by the university and late last month it was announced that Hyperion Books will be publishing a book based on Dr. Paush’s last lecture.

More about Professor Paush

Official Site  |  Wiki Page  |   Video of ‘Last Lecture’

Sort by:   newest | oldest
January 19, 2008 10:43 pm

I think this is a wonderful gesture on JJ’s part and I’m looking forward to see the Professor on the bridge.

January 19, 2008 10:45 pm

A station on the bridge – Very Cool

And “lots of buttons and controls”… I wonder if he had to learn what all of them did?

January 19, 2008 10:46 pm

Geeesss,, Lucky bugger !!

and if JJ wants to give me apart,, I can be contacted though this web-site,,

I’ll take any,,”Captain” role,,

wont be to fond of,,”Red shirt” roles thou,,


January 19, 2008 10:54 pm

Cameo role for anyone is nice. I think that this was a kind gesture not onle to a good man but also to a Trekkie in his final hours. This is probably a greater gift than seeing the movie or even see Shatner’s Kirk return to the big screen one last time if that occurs. To be on Star Trek or even in a large film of a story you enjoy is like living a dream. Good on you JJ. I hope that his sequence does not end up on the cutting room floor.

January 19, 2008 10:58 pm

lucky professer
I WANNA ROLE! Recast Kirk
I’m betta

January 19, 2008 11:02 pm

there is no other word for it .

Minnesota Bruin
January 19, 2008 11:08 pm

Wow! That is a really great story.

Freddie Wise
January 19, 2008 11:10 pm

That is so wonderful!

January 19, 2008 11:12 pm

This guy is a true inspiration.

January 19, 2008 11:13 pm

-I’m preparing myself to became a teacher…great choise ,i almost believed that , star trek is a saga with an exclusive destination for freaks…

January 19, 2008 11:14 pm

This just goes to show what a great guy we have directing this movie. Abrams, you are the man!! :)

January 19, 2008 11:16 pm

You’re the best, JJ!

martin anderson
January 19, 2008 11:18 pm

This does make an interesting point. If he is getting a station on the bridge, it means either at some point not all the regular Enterprise crew are on the bridge or, there are multiple bridges, and there for, multiple ships…

January 19, 2008 11:26 pm

#13. martin anderson
“This does make an interesting point. If he is getting a station on the bridge, it means either at some point not all the regular Enterprise crew are on the bridge or, there are multiple bridges, and there for, multiple ships…”

Why is this? He could very well man a station where noone of the main cast sits. Don’t you remember the bridge of the NCC-1701? There were certainly more stations than those of Spock, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and Scotty.

martin anderson
January 19, 2008 11:44 pm

But the only other crew on the original bridge were officers getting the captain’s autograph and those standing in for Chekov or Sulu when they were not there. I suppose there is another solution. He could be a member of Pike’s crew, or on duty while the others are on an away mission.

There goes my hopes for another vessel other than Enterprise in the film (and not just an Enterprise clone or Enterprise Bridge redress)…

January 19, 2008 11:45 pm

I find all of the “lucky him” comments to be particularly distasteful. The guy has terminal cancer. While I’d love to be in a Trek movie, I don’t think I’d trade my life for it.

Show that you’re thinking, people.

January 19, 2008 11:45 pm

WOW, that’s very nice indeed. What a humble but fitting tribute (the CMU bridge.) I hope he was able to take his family onto the new Enterprise’s bridge with him. A memory that will last a LONG time for them all.

Live longer and prosper, Randy!

January 20, 2008 12:09 am

That’s the best story I’ve seen posted here.

Saw a new side of JJ as well.

thanks Anthony, for the post.

You’ve shown the best side of Trek spirit.

January 20, 2008 12:13 am

What a good article, getting him a line is very sweet, and I agree let’s all hope he gets to see the finished product.

In this case, the bridge details are entirely beside the point. Perspective please people. Have an inspired day. :-)

January 20, 2008 12:37 am

Thats awesome that JJ did that for this great man. I wonder if Zach Quinto knows the professor- didn’t he go to Carnegie Mellon University too?

Awesome thing to do Mr. Abrams! Right on!:)


January 20, 2008 1:07 am

deleted by admin

January 20, 2008 1:16 am

Being from Pittsburgh, Dr. Pausch’s story was well-known here before it took off around the world. He’s more than just a local celebrity; he’s a hero in every sense of the word. It’s wonderful to hear that his tale reached Mr. Abrams and that he’ll have a role in the new movie. What an incredible gesture.

How can anyone read about something like this and not believe that Star Trek is in good hands? If this story doesn’t define “the human adventure” then I don’t know what does.

Rick James
January 20, 2008 1:18 am

What an emotionally touching story. May each of us aspire to face our own last days with the grace and dignity of Professor Pausch.

January 20, 2008 1:20 am

Seriously, brought a tear to my eye…

Very awesome thing to do, JJ!!! You are a class act all the way!

January 20, 2008 2:11 am


January 20, 2008 2:27 am

I´m impressed! JJ, your heart is absolutely in the right place! :)

Greetings from Germany

Rascal 110
January 20, 2008 3:22 am

I was truly moved by this wonderful story. I am a 53 something cop in Texas , who has been a Trek fan since the sixties. I was lucky enough to be invited to the set of VOYAGER during its last season . What a wonderful experience . The actors and crew could not have been more kind. So I can only imagine the thril of actually having a part in a ST film. Mr. Abrams you are a gentleman sir.
I believe this movle will be the spark to bring new blood to ST. So what if it is not EXACTLY our old Trek! We need new fans, not the same old “when I was a kid it was better” bunch ! For the classic ST message to survlve, young fans are an lmperitive. Good going Mr. Abrams , I and I believe most fans eagerly await the birth of your child.

January 20, 2008 4:16 am

Dr. Paush, I don’t know you but I know that you will be missed.

Allister Gourlay
January 20, 2008 4:38 am

man what a cool thing to do for a fan!

January 20, 2008 4:55 am

If you read further … he gets a line and gets to keep the costume. No replacement for what he’s loosing, but a class gesture all the way. And he got paid for it ( donated to charity ) ….

January 20, 2008 5:07 am

Very heart warming. I wonder what they have a visual of?

January 20, 2008 5:33 am

Dr. Pausch is a really inspirational man, I wish him the best and hope the treatments are going well. This is a really nice thing of Mr. Abrams to do. Looking foward to seeing the cameo!

January 20, 2008 6:09 am

Wow, that warmed my heart on a Sunday morning…

January 20, 2008 6:12 am

“..I had lots of buttons and controls”

Ahh..good old fashioned buttons on the bridge! The ” I hate the TOS bridge..a bridge shouldn’t have old style buttons and would be laughed off the screen” brigade won’t be happy at all.

But Im delighted.

And yes, JJ, regardless of the movies outcome, you’re a classy guy. Well done.

January 20, 2008 6:17 am

Simply Awesome. Being about the same age, I can indentify with his childhood dreams. Fantastic video. THANKS!

cugel the clever
January 20, 2008 6:24 am

Truly an inspirational story. This elevates JJ to an even higher level of respect in my eyes, and he was already way up there.

Shame on you fanboys who are using this thread to obsess about bridge details and other trivia or to call the professor “lucky”. It is YOU who are lucky that there are people like JJ and the professor in this world.

Brent S
January 20, 2008 6:26 am

I read his “last lecture” story in the WSJ when it was first published and quickly found the media version on line. It brought a tear to my eye – listening to his story by the man himself is a true inspiration.

Spending my childhood summers in Pittsburgh and my brother going to CMU also gave me a feeling of a hometown bond and proud to have such amazing individuals living in Pittsburgh.

I wish him all the best and thank JJ for opportunity extended.

rob z
January 20, 2008 6:55 am

To #27 and #36……….ditto!! The wonderful things you have both stated about Mr. Abrams, I couldn’t agree with you more. Mr. Abrams, you aren’t just a great director, but a great humanitarian. When Dr. Paush stated that you are “cool and egoless”, that is honestly the way you and your team come across to your fans. Thanks for bringing Star Trek back to us.

Crewman Darnell
January 20, 2008 7:04 am

Salutes to both Dr. Pausch & JJ!
Ah, to be offered such a role.. I’d gladly play a Redshirt and in the midst of my demise I would deliver my best rendition of a “Wilhelm Scream.” (I’d shoot for “A Chekov Shriek” but that’s such a very high pitch.)

Crusty McCoy
January 20, 2008 7:46 am

Makes our argumentative discussions here seem so small.

Great job, JJ.

Good luck, Randy.

January 20, 2008 8:31 am

#20 – interesting point. Regardless, it’s a noble gesture by J.J.

Bravo, JJ Abrams!
January 20, 2008 8:54 am

As someone WITH cancer, it’s incredible to see another vibrant, upbeat person continuing to live their life with enthusiasm and joie de vive. No matter what stage your affliction is, you continue to LIVE, not succumb regardless of being stage one or stage four. And it makes it ultra-important to do so with determination and courage. Dr. Pausch is living proof of this. May he outlive all of his doctors’ prognoses.

J.J. is indeed a rare, classy man. I hope some of you go to to witness one of JJ’s speeches. Wit, humor and wisdom = JJ Abrams.

#30 – Bingo! Anthony, there was far more to this story. I hope you’ll update your posting with the relevant information.

January 20, 2008 8:57 am

#13 – This does make an interesting point. If he is getting a station on the bridge, it means either at some point not all the regular Enterprise crew are on the bridge or, there are multiple bridges, and there for, multiple ships…

How is this an interesting point? When Scotty was on the bridge he rarely sat at a bridge station. The Engineering station on the bridge was usually manned by an extra. There is additionally another station to the right of Engineering which was also manned by an extra.

In fact, almost every station at one time or another was manned by an extra for any number of reasons with the excpetion of the Captain’s Chair.

As for the news story, great gesture on JJ’s part.

January 20, 2008 9:35 am

What a neat story. A touch of class to be sure.

January 20, 2008 9:35 am

That was a kind gesture on JJ’s part. Watching the video of the lecture Dr. Paush gave, it is hard not to have a great deal of respect for the man and his willingness to help others. He has clearly been an inspiration to many. I hope for the best for him and his family.

January 20, 2008 9:44 am

It’s good to see that JJ is continuing the long tradition that Star Trek has of reaching out to its fans, and also doing great work with those fans who find themselves with terrible illness. this story makes me feel better about JJ and the franchise more than any teaser or picture of the new enterprise!

Jay - "The Real Jim Kirk"
January 20, 2008 10:12 am

a really amazing story… what a brave guy!

and as for JJ, what a cool guy, truly ego-less and a real class act.

Star Trek is in good hands.

Smike van Dyke
January 20, 2008 10:30 am

Really impressive move…I really hope it will add to the humane spirit of this movie and elevate it beyond being just an average blockbuster…

#48: Come one. This is ridiculous. Even within a touching context like that some can’t keep their ludicrous Shatner obsessions out of the big picture…I really wanted Shatner to be part of it somehow. But after this irrational outburst of Shatnermania displayed online over the last couple of months I’m glad the man is out of it!

January 20, 2008 10:37 am

JJ’s coolness index just keeps rising.

January 20, 2008 10:37 am

I saw his lecture online a short timeago, and it has so much wisdom and heart.

Randy should be an inspiration to millions, and I applaud the decision for letting him touch one of his childhood dreams.

Not quite being Captain Kirk, but he made it to the Bridge.

Reading this brought a tear to my eye.