The Last Lecture Background

The Last Lecture Background

Randy Pausch had a good life. He was the happily married father of 3 young children and had a highly successful career as a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon. He was universally beloved and, according to those who knew him well, full of life.

All this changed in the fall of 2006.

At only 46 years old Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It proved, despite aggressive treatment, to be terminal. His world was turned upside down. But Pausch, true to his vivacious nature and insatiable intellect, was determined to make something useful of this tragic turn of events.

It is often common for college professors to give what is known in the academic community as a "last lecture," a speech in which they ask themselves "what would I say if I knew that it was the last chance I would ever have to speak?"

On September 18th, 2007, Pausch gave his last lecture. A crowd of over 400 students and fellow faculty of Carnegie Mellon listened enraptured to a speech which he entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” “The Last Lecture,” which he compiled and wrote over the course of the following months, is based largely on this speech.

In order to allow him as much remaining time as possible to spend with his family, Pausch employed author Jeffrey Laslow to help him write the volume. Despite his dire situation Pausch remains characteristically upbeat in the novel. He recognizes that his precious time is limited and endeavors in the book to impart upon his children the wisdom which he would have given them over the course of the next twenty years, had he been alive.

Though he knew that the novel would not be able to replace him fully in the lives of his children, he was determined to leave behind some form of paternal legacy for them to learn from. He dedicated “The Last Lecture” to his parents and children.

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