Jeffrey Zaslow, best-selling author, dies in car crash

Posted Feb. 12, 2012, at 9:06 p.m.

Jeffrey Zaslow, 53, the best-selling author of “The Last Lecture,” with Randy Pausch about a professor dying of cancer, and a recent book about former U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords, died Friday in a car accident in northern Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press and other news organizations reported that Zaslow, who lived in West Bloomfield, Mich., lost control of his car and was hit by a truck on a snow-covered road.

In 2006, Zaslow was in the audience at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, when Pausch delivered his “Last Lecture.” Pausch, a 45-year-old computer science professor, had recently learned that he had inoperable pancreatic cancer.

“It was electric in that room,” Zaslow told Britain’s Independent newspaper in 2008. “I knew it affected everyone that was there. But I could not have foreseen what followed, even in my wildest dreams.”

Zaslow wrote a well-received article for the Wall Street Journal, where he worked at the time, and later received a multimillion-dollar contract to expand the story into a book, with Pausch’s help. “The Last Lecture,” which became a No. 1 bestseller in 2008, touched on Pausch’s childhood dreams and was an inspiration for hundreds of thousands of readers.

Pausch was named ABC News’s Person of the Week and presented an abbreviated version of his lecture on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Videos of the youthful, fit-looking Pausch became Internet sensations.

Zaslow, who was born in Philadelphia, also wrote a book about Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who landed an airliner on the Hudson River in New York. He was also a former Chicago Sun-Times columnist.

Last year, in “Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope,” Zaslow chronicled the life and recovery of Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who was shot in the head by an assailant in January 2011. He co-wrote the book with Giffords’s husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.

Zaslow’s other books included a story about childhood friends in Iowa and another about a bridal store in Michigan.

Survivors include Zaslow’s wife, Sherry Margolis, a Detroit news anchor; and three daughters.

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