Even as Pattie Dunn died at age 58 after a long battle with cancer, she lived a full life. Her life started as an urban fairy tale: When I met her for the first time in 1999, Dunn told me about growing up as the daughter of a Las Vegas impresario and a showgirl, starting her career as a secretary at Wells Fargo (WFC), and rising through the banking world to CEO of Barclays Global Investors (BCS). That job, overseeing the world's largest institutional money manager, made her No. 11 on Fortune's Most Powerful Women list that year.
Dunn's life turned in 2001, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer--then, melanoma in 2002, ovarian cancer in 2004, and a recurrence, in the liver, in 2006. With great will and vigor, she powered through her illness and then through all sorts of messes at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), where she was on the board. As non-executive chairman, she played a key role in the ouster of CEO Carly Fiorina in 2005. A year later, Dunn herself got embroiled in a board probe gone awry. The state of California indicted her and then dropped charges related to spying on fellow directors and journalists. But Dunn lost her HP board position.
In 2007, I went to Dunn's home in Orinda, CA, east of San Francisco, to do an exclusive interview with her about weathering all these storms. She was the picture of health and remarkably gracious--perhaps realizing that after all she had been through, she could handle anything.
Dunn and I didn't talk again after that Q&A ran. (She emailed me to complain that she disliked the headline, "The survival of Pattie Dunn.") But ever since, I've thought of Dunn almost everyday. That's because her name appears in my address book right before my own name; when I send an email to myself, "Pattie Dunn" pops up before "Pattie Sellers." This morning, I found an email she sent me eight years ago, after we invited her to appear on a panel with two other cancer survivors, then-CEO of Autodesk (ADSK) Carol Bartz and current Morgan Stanley (MS) CFO Ruth Porat. Dunn couldn't make it to the Summit; she was doing R&R in Australia, where she and her ex-banker husband, Bill Jahnke, owned a winery. In regretting Fortune's invitation, Dunn sent this email, which I read from the stage:
"My situation is stable and each day is a gift. My attitude is that we are ALL borrowing every day from death, but some of us have been rudely reminded that this is the case--which is not all bad. And one can still be determined to fight for every day."
Dunn is survived by two daughters and 10 grandchildren. She also wrote this to me in 2003, when she had no idea how long she would live with her cancer:
"As your MPW surveys mature with the years, there will be women who become ill, or die for whatever reason. To reduce the stigma of illness, I'd recommend noting these developments if the individual in question (in instance of illness) agrees. I've actually had people who thought I died because I was no longer listed! That's actually a great testament to the impact of your work! Best regards, Pattie"
I trust that Dunn wouldn't mind that I'm sharing this with you today. For a while at least, I'm not deleting her name from my address book.
Evelyn Lauder, who died of complications from non-genetic ovarian cancer on Saturday, had a swarm of close friends throughout her life. Yet many close friends who attended her funeral today did not have a clue that she would die so soon.
Classic Evelyn. "It was never about her. It was always about you," Liz Robbins, a prominent Washington lobbyist, told me this morning over breakfast before she headed to the invitation-only MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 14, 2011 1:22 PM ET
By Patricia Sellers
A lot of dazzling stats came out of the Global Forum -- the Fortune/Time/CNN's confab that was held these past few days in Cape Town, South Africa. Africa's GDP growth rate is double what it was in the '80s and '90s. That healthy growth is well-balanced -- two-thirds of it comes from outside the resource sector. Meanwhile, consumer buying power is rising steadily: Africa has more middle class MOREScott Olster, editor - Jun 29, 2010 1:30 PM ET
"I'm admitting that American medicine has overpromised when it comes to screening. The advantages to screening have been exaggerated."
-- Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, today in The New York Times. We're fascinated with this dilemma of modern medicine: Screening for breast and prostate cancers has increased diagnoses but done little to curb fatal cancers. One reason is that some cancers detected during screenings aren't MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Oct 21, 2009 1:48 PM ET
Former HP (HPQ) CEO Carly Fiorina is taking flak for her website for her campaign for the California GOP senator slot in next year's election. But Fiorina has good reason to be a bit scattered: She's battling cancer (after discovering a lump in her breast last winter, two weeks after a mammogram showed she was clean). Read Time National Political Correspondent Karen Tumulty's take here. (We also wrote about Fiorina's MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Sep 25, 2009 12:32 PM ET
Participants at last week's Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit were joined by two special guests via satellite: Former Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) CEO Carly Fiorina and Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Presidential candidate John Edwards. The women were unable to attend the Summit in-person due to ongoing treatment for cancer, but they were eager to show their support for Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), an initiative backed by the entertainment community to MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Sep 24, 2009 3:26 PM ET
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