Randy Pausch had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. As a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, this would literally be his last lecture. He was given information that he only had months to live at the time the lecture was given (the book is based on the lecture). The premise of the "last lecture" was for a professor near death to summarize and pass on his wisdom on how to achieve your dreams for his students (and for Randy Pausch, it also gave him an opportunity to dedicate this last lecture, and in a sense his life, to his children). Pausch died the same year the book was published but did live long enough to see it become a best seller, inspiring many in book form and the video of the lecture.