The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture


Randy Pausch

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The Last Lecture: Chapter 42 Summary & Analysis

When Dennis Cosgrove was a student at the University of Virginia, Randy was impressed by him. Dennis was an A-student in all his classes except Calculus, in which he was an F student. A certain dean wanted to expel Dennis because he believed the F was due to a lack of effort. Randy decided to go to bat for Dennis, and the dean, who still wanted to expel Dennis, wasn’t happy. Randy asked what would happen if Dennis got a lawyer and Randy testified on Dennis’s behalf against the university. The dean was taken aback, asking why a non-tenured professor would stick his neck out for a student. Randy responded, “…because I believe in him.” The dean said he would remember this when Randy went up for tenure, and Randy said they had a deal. Dennis passed Calculus, became an award-winning computer scientist, and was even one of the early people brought in to work on Randy’s Alice project. Now, Randy has entrusted Dennis with carrying Alice into the future. He enabled Dennis’ dream back then, and now that Randy needs it, Dennis is enabling Randy’s dream.
Randy stuck his neck out for Dennis and enabled him to graduate and chase his dream in the computer programming field. Now that Randy is sick and dying, Dennis is repaying the favor (and participating in a feedback loop) by enabling Randy’s dream of completing the Alice software project so that it can impact millions of kids after Randy’s death. Enabling the dreams of others can sometimes, like a feedback loop, wrap back around and, in turn, enable your own dreams (which is somewhat parallel to the idea of karma).
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