Professor Matthew Pilarz, Ph.D., gave his own personal speech on Monday as the recipient of the Annual Last Lecture Award.
The award is based off of the story of Randy Pausch, a professor of computer science and human-computer interaction and design. Pausch was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in August of 2007. He gave a final lecture entitled, “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” and co-authored a book on the same ideal called “The Last Lecture,” before passing away in 2008.
Pilarz was nominated by one of his students to receive the award through Student University Programming. The award is annually given at Rowan and has for the past nine years. It is given to professors of ranging universities all across the country.
“The support I got from my current and former students that came and voted for me, told me how much they appreciated me as a professor and just the fact that they took the time to come out and vote, that outpouring of affection from my students really meant a lot to me.” Pilarz said.
Pilarz’s hypothetical last lecture was given through a PowerPoint presentation where he thanked his family and friends that made him who he is today as well as his own life’s journey leading up to the present.
“The thought behind it is that if you’re going to give your last lecture, what do you want to tell your students going forward, what lessons have you learned, what can you impart on them as they move on,” Pilarz said. “I found it to be a great honor to receive it, to be able to say ‘Okay here’s the story of my life so far, maybe you can learn from it, maybe not, at least enjoy it and maybe it’ll make you think,’ so I think it can send a really good message to students.”
In addition to Pilarz’s family and friends attending his lecture, many of his students also joined in support, such as Edward Nowak, a sophomore electrical and computer engineering student.
“I don’t think there’s really a better professor I could’ve gotten, he works very hard to make sure that his student are kept on focus and on track,” Nowak said. “I felt like there was a lot to relate to and it was very informative about him and also informative about myself in comparing the life choices and decisions I’ve made in my life and it was very refreshing to hear.”
Pilarz hopes that from his last lecture, students will take away a moral that things don’t always go the way you want them too.
“I want students to know that everything isn’t going to be great all the time and you have to roll with the punches, adapt, and make changes in your life as it goes on,” Pilarz said. “I don’t want people to think they’re at a dead end when really they’re just turning a corner. That’s the greatest lesson I’ve learned.”