Last Lecture

Publication Date



The “Last Lecture” was written in February 2004 for presentation at Mortarboard’s March 2004 annual “Last Lecture” series. Mortarboard is a national undergraduate honor society and each year it sponsors a last lecture series at Cornell in which two professors are asked the following: “If you were retiring tomorrow and had a half an hour to give a last lecture to your students, what would you say?”

As the attached should indicate to you, I took the charge quite seriously. The lecture was written before we learned in August 2004 that our son’s brain tumor had begun to grow again and, that as a family, we would once again be facing a very trying time. I gave the lecture to my class to read that fall to explain to them why they would only see me on the screen in the classroom; I was going down to Washington, DC to be with my son and his wife while he was treated and would be teaching them from the Cornell-in-Washington Center. His hospital stay lasted almost two months and when I returned to Cornell a number of students told me that this lecture was the most important thing that they had read during their years at Cornell. So I now share it with my undergraduate students each year in the hope that the messages in it will be of use to them during their lifetimes.


Suggested Citation
Ehrenberg, R.G. (2008). Last lecture [Electronic version]. Retrieved [insert date], from Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations site: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/workingpapers/110/

Required Publisher Statement
Published by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, Cornell University.