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.
TrekMovie.com 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