By Stephanie Smith
Patrick Coen, a math and statistics professor at Eastern, stood smiling before a crowd of former and current students Monday night in the basement of Martin Hall as he prepared to give what was billed as his “last lecture.”But it wasn’t exactly his last lecture.
The idea behind the Last Lecture series came from an extremely popular lecture given by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, called “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” shortly after he learned he had a terminal case of pancreatic cancer. The inspirational lecture now has garnered more than 11 million views on YouTube.
Last year, David Eakin, a biology professor who goes by the nickname “Dr. Dave” was nominated by Eastern students to give the first lecture in the series. This year, thanks to student nominations, it was Coen’s turn.
“I’m humbled and honored that my students thought enough of me to nominate me,” he said.
Coen said that he teaches mostly mass lectures. But the room in which he was giving his “Last Lecture,” which held about 30 people, was far more intimidating because the subject matter was so much more revealing.
The lecture, which the math professor aptly titled “The Sum of My Experiences,” did pretty much what the title suggested – Coen shared many small, but important life lessons because they were things he personally would have wanted to know.
Coen began the lecture by sharing a little bit of background information about his family, adding that many of life’s greatest lessons were brought to his attention from his wife and kids.
“My wife,” Coen said, “taught me that there IS one perfect person out there for everyone.”
As for his three sons, Coen said one of his greatest enjoyments was to sit down and just read to his kids.
“They taught me to slow down and have fun and appreciate life,” he said.
But, in true math-loving fashion, he said he has also learned some great lessons from his profession, such as the ability to solve problems and to accept yourself and the mistakes that you might happen to make along the way.
“You make mistakes and it’s okay,” he said. “They make erasers for mistakes.”
What else did math teach him?
“The power of the exponent,” he said. With that, he launched into an explanation about how important it was to save for retirement. He drew up a graph that showed how saving $150 a week will pay off in the long run, thanks to the wonders of compound interest.
Coen also served up a bit of advice on choosing a career and pointed out the importance of picking one based on what you love and not merely its comforts and perks.
“It’s stinky getting up and going to work if you don’t enjoy it,” Coen said.
Coen’s final piece of advice: “Time is infinite, but our time is limited. Each juncture of your life is finite. Just enjoy it.