A good man gone

The power of kindness

Last week, a very special man passed away suddenly. Until recently, Dr. Michael O’Malley was an associate director at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC) and a state employee for more than 30 years. He also was an adjunct member of our Gillings School faculty who, for many years, co-directed (much of the time with Dr. JoAnne Earp) the very successful Cancer Control Education Program. None of those descriptors come close to encompassing a man who loved life, who always had time for students needing encouragement or a listening ear and who knew how to accomplish things so systems worked for people instead of against them. Michael wrote beautifully and had the kindest smile and a positive word for everyone.

We use the words nice and kind too often in an offhand way, but Michael O’Malley was nice and kind. I value the company of people who are not just intelligent, but also nice, kind, decent individuals who care about (and demonstrate their concern for) those around them. Michael O’Malley was that kind of person. In organizations, the power of kindness is profound. When coupled with dedication, sharp intellect, wit, hard work and a willingness to not take oneself too seriously—as exemplified by Michael—kindness is particularly powerful.

Time after time, Michael, often with then-director Dr. Shelley Earp, helped produce grant applications essential to the future of LCCC. He wrote, strategized, scheduled, cajoled and comforted. On more than one occasion, when we had a critical need for just the right person on a search committee, he was ready to serve. If I needed advice about a high-priority position, Michael often had just the right suggestions.

He lived a full life with his wife, Nadine, a gracious, smart and accomplished woman, his daughter, Bailey Gatens, and their dog, Shelby. The hundreds of people who came to the family home last night to share their sadness and stories with Nadine, Bailey and others were testimony to the fact that many will miss this good man who is now gone from us. Barbara

  • Michael O'Malley will be missed
    From his obituary:

    He was an exceptional leader known as a great “connector,” shepherding the leaders, staff, and faculty at the largest research entity on the UNC campus. He worked tirelessly and skillfully with a kindness and infectious smile that spread warmth throughout the entire cancer center. Even the most mundane of mass emails would entertain, using lines from, among others, the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, or Saturday Night Live to communicate about road closings or new federal grant opportunities. He was known for walking the halls of the cancer center to drop in and say hello, a habit he continued even after his “retirement.” In recognition of his remarkable administrative skill and research accomplishments he was awarded the C. Knox Massey Award in 2007.


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