Shortly after gaining tenure at the University of Virginia, Pausch takes his research team (fifteen people) to Disney World as a thank-you for their hard work and commitment to his research. One of his colleagues, a fellow professor, takes him aside and asks why he would do such a thing. Clearly he and other nearly tenured professors are concerned that Pausch is setting a precedent which they are not willing to commit to as well.
Pausch tells him he has no choice: this team worked incredibly hard and was responsible for helping him get “the best job in the world for life.” A trip to Disney World is the least he can do to repay them. The sixteen of them drive a van to Florida, and they have a wonderful time. Pausch ensures they get some education along with their entertainment, stopping along the way to visit universities and computer research groups.
This trip is an easy way for Pausch to show his gratitude. It is a tangible gift and an experience he can share with the people he appreciates; however, not everyone is so easily thanked. One of Pausch’s greatest mentors is Andy van Dam, his computer science professor at Brown. He gave the young Pausch wise counsel, wisdom that changed his life. Since there is really no way to pay him back for that, Pausch believes he must “pay it forward.” His trip to Disney World with his research team, talking with them about their goals and dreams, is Pausch’s way of doing just that.