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1st Randy Pausch Prize from CMU ETC goes to Pixar’s Ed Catmull

As much as anyone Dr. Randy Pausch embodied creativity and technology combined. His work founding and teaching at the Entertainment Technology Center for Carnegie Mellon University, his life long passions, including working for Walt Disney Imagineering, and his emotional “Last Lecture”, in fact a gift for his kids, are good models for us all. So it makes sense that Dr. Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar and current President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, be awarded the first Randy Paucsh Prize.

Without the leadership and vision of Dr. Ed, Pixar would not exist; without his passion for excellence and creativity, Pixar would not have hit every ball out of the park with a perfect record of films out of the Emeryville Studios. Catmull will give a speech at CMU on September 26th when he receives his award.

The full press release is below the cut:

Disney/Pixar’s Ed Catmull To Accept First Randy Pausch Prize
At Entertainment Computing Conference at Carnegie Mellon

PITTSBURGH—Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, will accept the first Randy Pausch Prize from Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) and present the keynote address at the 7th International Conference on Entertainment Computing (ICEC) on Sept. 26.

The award, which the ETC plans to present annually, is named for Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist and author of the best-selling book “The Last Lecture,” who died July 25 at age 47. Pausch was passionate about the need for technologists and artists to work together and unusually successful in making these collaborations work. The Pausch Prize will honor entertainment industry experts who embody his interdisciplinary spirit.

“We couldn’t think of a more fitting person to receive the first Pausch Prize than Ed Catmull,” said Don Marinelli, who co-founded the ETC with Pausch and is its executive producer. “Eleven years ago, when the ETC was just a vision that Randy and I were trying to make a reality, Ed generously shared with us his thoughts about how to prepare students for the new world of interactive digital media. His suggestions, including the idea of having everyone in the program study improvisational acting, were priceless. He helped us make the ETC a place where right-brained and left-brained individuals can work together successfully.”

Catmull co-founded Pixar, which has produced such films as “Toy Story,” “The Incredibles” and “Wall-E,” and created two other leading centers of computer graphics research — the computer graphics laboratory at the New York Institute of Technology and the computer division of Lucasfilm Ltd. These three organizations have been home to many of the most academically respected researchers in the field of computer graphics and have produced some of the field’s most fundamental advances. Catmull is one of the architects of the RenderMan rendering software, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary and has been used in 44 of the last 47 films nominated for an Academy Award® in the Visual Effects category.

Catmull has been honored with four Academy Awards, including a Technical Achievement Award, as well as the ACM SIGGRAPH Steven A. Coons Award for his lifetime contributions in the computer graphics field. He earned the IEEE’s John von Neumann Medal for contributions to computer graphics and a pioneering use of computer animation in motion pictures. Catmull earned a Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Utah.

Recipients of the Pausch Prize, which includes a $2,500 cash award, will present a lecture at Carnegie Mellon. Catmull will accept his prize and present the Pausch lecture at 9:15 a.m., Sept. 26 in McConomy Auditorium in Carnegie Mellon’s University Center, the site of Pausch’s famous “last lecture.”

The lecture also serves as the keynote address for the ICEC, which is hosted this year by the ETC. The ICEC is the largest and most prestigious conference for entertainment computing, where leading experts from academia and industry present their newest insights, products and demonstrations. In addition to Catmull, speakers include Stan Szymanski, senior vice president of Digital Production and Creative Resources for Sony Pictures Imageworks; Jesse Schell, assistant professor at the ETC, president of Schell Games and author of the new book “The Art of Game Design;” and Keiji Yamada, director of NEC Corporation’s C&C Innovation Research Laboratories.

About 300 researchers are expected to attend the ICEC Sept. 25-27. For information, please visit