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.
Meg Whitman is the new CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Not interim chief. This is Whitman's for-real next big gig.
And it is big indeed, given that the storied Silicon Valley company has lurched from chief to chief to chief ever since the board, in 1999, eased out Lew Platt and recruited Carly Fiorina from Lucent (ALU).
Fiorina was the first No. 1 on the Fortune Most Powerful Women list, at the top MOREPatricia Sellers - Sep 22, 2011 5:05 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
They argued that their business backgrounds would help lift California out of its economic morass, but we pretty much knew that power in business wouldn't translate to political favor. Not in this era of populist rage against corporate America.
Election results aren't yet fully reported, but the vote count for the two women who once ruled Fortune's Most Powerful Women list stands at:
Meg Whitman, 41%, vs. Jerry Brown, 54%, MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 3, 2010 3:54 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
I'm back from "vacation." Since the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit (view sessions here) wrapped in early October, the "chronic networker" that I am (one of my Time Inc. bosses accused me of being this) has been racing around the U.S. -- LA, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Boston, Atlanta, Allentown PA, my hometown. I'm back on New York terra firma at last.
While I was out, I worked on MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 2, 2010 11:31 AM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Sometimes Los Angeles behaves like a small town.
This past Sunday, I ran into Maria Shriver at Room at the Beach, a Malibu store owned by my friend Elizabeth Lamont.
The next morning, coincidentally, I had breakfast with a close friend/colleague of Shriver. And no sooner did I sit down at Le Pain Quotidien than the Governator walked in. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was on his way to Sacramento, presumably to MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 25, 2010 12:54 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Today, two former No. 1's on Fortune's Most Powerful Women list will learn whether they have big new careers ahead -- in politics.One is Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay (EBAY), who looks likely to win the Republican nomination for Governor. And then she'll go head to head against Democrat Jerry Brown, who has seen and done it all in California (including served as Governor). The other is MORE Patricia Sellers - Jun 8, 2010 10:52 AM ET
by Patricia Sellers
This week in Detroit, where I interviewed Charlene Begley--General Electric's (GE) top-ranking female exec and No. 27 on the Fortune Most Powerful Women list--someone in the audience asked: "When will we see women holding half the CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies?"
Whoa! Begley is hardly a shrinking violet, but she lobbed this one to me. And I replied: "Never ever ever ever."
If you're a regular reader of Postcards, you know my view: MOREPatricia Sellers - May 6, 2010 12:20 PM ET
Ever since we launched the Fortune Most Powerful Women 12 years ago, we've noticed that behind most every remarkable leader on our list stands another powerful woman. Call her mom.
When I interviewed Carly Fiorina in 1998 for the first MPWomen issue (she was at Lucent (ALU) then and hardly known outside of telecom), she talked passionately about the influence of her mother, who died soon after we put Fiorina on MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 22, 2010 1:59 PM ET
Carly Fiorina declared her candidacy for the U.S. Senate--in a bid to replace another well-known woman, incumbent California Democrat Barbara Boxer.
Fiorina, who was No. 1 on Fortune's Most Powerful Women list for six years when she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), will be pounding the campaign trail simultaneously with another ex-No. 1 on our list: Meg Whitman. The former eBay (EBAY) CEO, who topped Fortune's power list in 2004 and MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 5, 2009 12:21 PM ET
Elizabeth Edwards, former Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) CEO Carly Fiorina and other cancer survivors convened for a discussion called "Stand Up to Cancer" at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in mid-September. Hollywood producer Laura Ziskin was also on the panel. She's a co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer, an entertainment-industry-led initiative that funds cancer research, requires scientists to work together, and is helping to accelerate progress toward curing the disease MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 1, 2009 11:14 AM ET
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