Last Lecture co-author Jeff Zaslow dies in car accident
Friday morning, Carnegie Mellon alumnus (HS ’80) and The Last Lecture co-author Jeffrey Zaslow died at age 53 due to injuries he sustained in a car accident. Zaslow lost control of his vehicle on a snowy road in northern Michigan.
Zaslow, a Philadelphia native, graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a creative writing degree. He was a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity, and served as editor-in-chief of The Tartan.
After Zaslow attended the final lecture of late Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Randy Pausch, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” he wrote an article on the subject for the Wall Street Journal. He then Zaslow began working on The Last Lecture with Pausch. Zaslow soon befriended Pausch, who was suffering from terminal pancreatic cancer.
The Last Lecture was a hit. It became a New York Times bestseller in 2008 and has been translated into 48 languages, selling more than 5 million copies in the U.S. alone.
The book propelled Pausch and, to a degree, Zaslow into the national spotlight.
Anne Witchner, former director of student activities at Carnegie Mellon, met Zaslow while he was a student. “Zaslow was a very bright young man,” Witchner said. “I knew he would do well.”
Zasow returned to Carnegie Mellon for orientation every year after he wrote The Last Lecture, and also spoke at Homecoming events and other functions.
Witchner recalled that Zaslow would always stay for book signings after his speeches, and never left until every single person’s copy was signed.
“He had a total understanding of the human condition, and was a very down-to-earth person who saw the world in a very sensible way,” Witchner said.
Zaslow was also a consistent contributor to the Wall Street Journal, as well as the author of numerous nonfiction books, such as The Girls from Ames. He collaborated with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband on their memoir, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope.
Other notable works of Zaslow’s include Highest Duty, a book co-written with Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who landed U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in January 2009.
Zaslow’s final book, The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters, was released in January of this year.
Zaslow was twice named “best columnist” by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and received the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award in 2000.
According to a statement Wall Street Journal editor Robert Thomson made to the paper’s staff, “Jeff’s writing, for the Journal and in his books, has been a source of inspiration for many people around the world and his journalistic life has been a source of inspiration for all journalists.”
Zaslow began his career writing for the Orlando Sentinel ’s magazine section. He then took a position as a staff writer at the Wall Street Journal and, after winning a competition to replace writer Ann Landers, published a front page feature for the Chicago Sun-Time.
Zaslow also made numerous media appearances, on programs such as 60 Minutes, The Tonight Show, The Today Show, Oprah, Larry King Live, and Good Morning America.
Zaslow is survived by his wife, Sherry Margolis, and his three daughters: Jordan, Alex, and Eden.