OMalley

Update: Thank you to all who attended the memorial service to honor Michael. To view a video of the service, click here.

We are deeply saddened to share with you that we have lost a dear friend and colleague, Dr. Michael O’Malley. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family during this trying time. Michael’s kindness and infectious smile spread warmth throughout the entire cancer center. He served as the Associate Director of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and committed over 30 years of service to the state of North Carolina. An exceptional leader, many knew him as a great “connector” and was beloved by everyone he connected with at UNC. Dr. O’Malley also served as an adjunct associate professor of health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health where he was a mentor for countless students over the years. He co-directed the Cancer Control Education Program, an NCI-funded pre- and postdoctoral training program in cancer prevention and control.

Here, we remember his legacy and invite you to do the same by providing a memory or thought about Dr. O’Malley in the comments below.

 

66 Responses to “Remembering Michael O’Malley”

  1. Tom Landrum

    Mike and I were friends in elementary school, Laurel Ridge in DeKalb County, Georgia. I won’t ever forget the warmth and genuine nature of his friendship. I believe he began to display his natural leadership tendencies there. It was impossible not to like him. From elementary school, Mike and I went to Druid Hills High School, where our friendship continued. We were high school classmates from 1963 until 1968. Our school was fairly large; there were about 350 of us in the senior class. As it often happens in high schools of this size, there were “cliques,” or perhaps better characterized as “familiarity groups”! For better or ill, Mike and I were in a small circle of guys and girls who were considered “brainy” intellectuals, not known for our looks, athletic ability, or social standing. But I recall we were happy. Certainly, Mike was happy in his own skin. We both wrote for the school newspaper, and we reveled in class projects that called for creativity. When we graduated, we went our different ways: Mike, clearly my superior with his academic record, went to Davidson. I went to the University of Georgia, the state’s flagship public university. Still, we stayed in contact with each other. I remember missing him as I entered this new stage in my life. The years passed all too quickly and we had only periodic contact with each other. But I would think of him often, when I’d hear a certain song on the radio, or when certain a memory of our happy high school past would float through my mind. I know he was happy at UNC because a mutual friend, a former research professional who migrated from UNC to UGA, told me of the esteem Mike enjoyed there. My chief regret today is that I did not pursue my resolve to link up again with him. Such a trip was in the works when I learned of his death. To Mike’s wife and family, I can only send my condolences and best wishes. I trust they will be secure in their happy memories of hat I know was a wonderful husband and father. All I can offer them is my admiration for Mike O’Malley, the man, who was my good high school friend. Tom Landrum

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  2. Doris Padgett

    ALhough we only met you briefly,I was glad to know you’d accepted Bailey as your own daughter,and I’d wished her little sister Courtney would have had the chance to know you .You did a great job as a father she never had.Rest in peace Michael,and thank you.

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  3. Doris Padgett

    it is with great sadness to hear of Mike’s passing.He married Nadine with a young daughter of 8 years old,and willingly took over as parent with an unwanted father.I am so impressed Michael became a fantastic father figure.i thank you , Michael for your years of dedication as a real father! Blessings xo

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  4. Gary and Cyndy Scibal

    Mike and I (Gary) were friends at Davidson Class of ’72 and my later to be wife and I treasured his friendship. Bob Peele and I lived next door to Mike and roommate Scott Keeter our senior year. Great memories- Mike taking care of Cyndy with Frisbee and other activities when she came to visit me for a weekend and I had some type of lab obligation. A lot of pick-up basketball games and meals together. Mike never took himself overly seriously, but his gifts were many, not the least being that infectious smile and that great sense of humor. I think a few of our classmates were surprised at what a brilliant student he was when grades were passed out. He had more friends than anybody I ever met – I suspect because he was himself a friend to so many. Mike, you will be missed.

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  5. Nadine O'Malley

    It has been three months since Michael’s sudden passing. I miss him more and more and I always will. Michael was a beautiful soul. Our 25 years together were filled with happiness and joy. Bailey and I have been deeply touched by the wonderful tributes emailed, mailed, posted here on this website, and at the memorial service. Michael’s time with us ended way too soon but he truly did have a life well lived. His unconditional loving spirit will be with us always.

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  6. Joe Pagano

    Michael was Administrator of the Center like no other. After his appointment it didn’t take long to recognize his talents—so many that we urged him to pursue an MPH/Ph.D in the School of Public Health. At first he demurred with characteristic modesty, but then he quickly made his distinctive mark as a student, then mentor, faculty member & counselor.

    As a colleague & friend his competence, wry humor & warmth came to reflect the values of the Lineberger across the Campus and on Cancer Center Advisory Boards elsewhere.

    But what I most remember are his inimitable memos. He delighted in them, & we were all the beneficiaries. Anything could ignite an improbable fancy. An example, in which he cajoled the tardy in enrolling in the State Health Plan:

    AND, IF YOU THINK THE SKY IS FALLING…
    It’s not, but it could be space junk. Some time this weekend, the European Space Agency’s GOCE satellite (Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer) will fall prey to gravity and return home. The good news—the one ton satellite is expected to explode into a fireball and disperse int smaller chunks that will mostly burn up in the atmosphere. An estimated 25 to 45 pieces (the biggest weighing 200 pounds says the NY Times, but only 20 pounds says the Manchester Guardian), will make their way to the earth’s surface… This year alone, an estimated 100 tons of debris has entered the earth’s atmosphere headed ground-ward. No reports of injuries.

    I went to his office & said he ought to anthologize his reflections!

    That is not to be, but memories of Michael will.

    Hail!, Farewell! Michael

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  7. Martin Baucom

    Today’s service was so moving, and befitting such a wonderful person. It helped me understand in a different way that a life joyfully lived can have powerful impact through other people. I’m relatively new at Lineberger, so didn’t know Michael well. Still, as I moved from another institution into a development role with Lineberger that he had so ably filled on an interim basis, Michael reached out to me and made himself available as much as possible to help me better understand the great opportunity I’d been extended.

    We had two very long and, for me, memorable lunches together. It was easy for Michael to navigate competing perspectives as he conveyed what he knew of the landscape–which was everything. And he always did so cheerfully and with candor! As we walked to my car following our last lunch, Michael said he was going to continue on up the block so that he could stop in and visit with the gentleman who’d been cutting his hair for the last 40 years. Michael wasn’t going to get a haircut–he wanted to spend some extra time with his barber.

    On one other occasion a week later, Michael stopped by our office and we took a walk together, from the Lineberger building over to the cancer hospital. It turned out to be the day that he died. On several occasions since then, I have felt myself thinking there were things I wanted to ask Michael, or just share with him. And I was around him only three times! Such easy intimacy. It makes me feel even more for those many, many fortunate people who knew Michael well and loved him. My condolences to you all.

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  8. Peter Samai

    From the first moment I met Michael as a student in his class, to the many random chance meetings in and around Chapel Hill years after, he was always genuine and caring guy. He was a truly great mentor, and remains a great example for us all. It was a great fortune to have known him, and my deepest sympathies to his family.

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  9. Aileen Sutter

    As a twenty-something, living in an apartment brownstone in Brooklyn, I though often then about who lived around me and how sad I never knew them. Thirty years later, attending Michael’s memorial service I was struck with the same thought. The tributes were so beautiful and I left feeling like I had a gem right up the road that I never knew.
    I also thought, “did he know?”
    Did he understand the number of people whose lives he changed and impacted?

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  10. Chesley Richards

    I first met Michael in 1996 when I applied (and was accepted) into the CCEP. On the initial interview, Michael was engaging, funny, kind, supportive, smart, and left me with both warmth and a sense that I would have a great time at UNC. It only got better. At every turn, Michael was there. A pep talk. A keen insight. A connection or door opened. Michael made it possible to succeed while also being a wonderful human being. I threw him curve balls, like when I needed additional unplanned funding or when I wanted to spend part of the summer in Atlanta at CDC. Nothing was too hard, and no wasn’t in Michael’s vocabulary, unless it was a no for which you would benefit.
    Since leaving UNC, I have been fortunate to have a long career at CDC with evergrowing responsibility and ability to improve public health. None of that would have been possible without Michael. And for that I will always be grateful. But the more important lesson Michael taught me then and over the years was that love–love for the profession, love for the school, for UNC Basketball, and most importantly for friends and for his wonderful family– was the secret sauce to Michael’s special blend of grace. I have always thought that Michael embodied love, without having to make it explicit. It was simply him.
    I will miss Michael and my deepest sympathy and thoughts are with his loved ones.

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  11. AB

    I met Dr. O’Malley as a first year graduate student. It was the Saturday of Labor day weekend, and my scooter, my sole mode of transportation at the time, had broken down. I had to abandon the scooter on campus and was really worried about it being stolen. Dr. O’Malley happened to be passing by, dressed casually in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, a real departure from his usual suit. He enquired about the problem, and offered me a fantastic solution — store my scooter in the Pagano conference room over the holiday! We wheeled it in where it sat for a few days until I could get a mechanic to come help me out. I still smile when I remember how we positioned the scooter by the podium, as if it was giving a seminar. After that, he called me “scooter girl” and always had a smile or a joke for me. He’s missed!

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  12. Marissa Hall

    I took Dr. O’Malley’s cancer seminar a couple of years ago, and have such fond memories of him and of the class. Every week, I looked forward to the class, especially the tidbits of cancer-related news and current events that Michael would share with us. I was always so impressed with how Dr. O’Malley exuded intellect, enthusiasm, and warmth at the same time. I know I speak for many when I say that I will greatly miss his positive presence at UNC.

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  13. Colleen McBride

    I have so many great memories of Michael that it is hard to cull them down to one sound bite. But one of my favorites comes from the early days of technology for conference presentations when slide projectors were the status quo but there were the early adopters who were switching to powerpoint. Not many hotel venues were able to accommodate powerpoint but I had been assured that this particular hotel could do it. I was doing my first big 20 minute presentation at the American Society of Preventive Oncology. The conference was having a million technical problems, many sessions delayed, and the audience was restless to say the least. I was introduced, got up to the podium, and quickly realized that I was going to be yet another technical difficulty. For some crazy reason, I had brought overheads (really!) and Michael springs out of the audience, grabs my overheads and proceeds to put them on the overhead projector (they had one), changing the slides at my instruction. We never said a word to each other…he just knew what to do…and did it! I know life isn’t fair but his passing really confirms it! My heart goes out to his family…he was jewel.

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  14. Young Whang

    I was so shocked and saddened to hear the news. As everyone mentioned, he was always so warm and approachable and witty (in person and email). He will always stop and talk to you anytime. I remember him as a passionate basketball fan who was so proud of his Davidson Wildcats basketball team (Stephen Curry et al). Of course, he was also passionate about cheering on the Tar Heels basketball team. I will miss him greatly.

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  15. Kim Rathmell

    I was shocked and saddened as everyone was to hear of Michael’s sudden passing. It just seemed incomprehensible. Although he retired, you would never know it–he was energetic and engaged and really cared about Carolina and everyone who was part of it. He was always cheerful and wanted to honestly know how I was doing when we ran into each other off campus as well. I learned that it was ok and good to be yourself and have fun at work from Michael. No one could replicate his fund of knowledge of sports and cultural iconography, his emails to deliver news of any kind (good, bad, indifferent) were so witty and entertaining that I would read them again and again.

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  16. Ed Baptist

    I worked with Michael as an IT contractor for almost two decades, starting with EDRN reports and ending with integrating Lineberger servers into the campus network. As he occasionally reminded Chris Demetriou, Younger Ye, and me, he was not a technical person, but nobody else at UNC matched his ability to get the most from our efforts. Although many people claim to manage, Michael was one who could do it.
    The story I remember him telling us during one of our weekly IT meetings (although I don’t recall what prompted it) concerned the old days when physical copies of a grant proposal could be hand delivered. Michael made the long drive with a copy paper box full of multiple copies only to see it placed in a room reminiscent of the warehouse in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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  17. younger ye

    There are people i know as colleagues, co-workers, bosses, friends, mentors, listeners … and there is Michael O’Malley, one of his own kind yet has it all. In the past 13 years working with Michael, I was used to go to him as my first and last resort for many of my questions. And I knew I would come back with an answer, plus his smile and extra witty stories as bonus. There are things I take for granted until i lost them. In my mind Michael will be remembered and missed.

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  18. Deborah Lee

    It’s been weeks since the passing of our beloved Dr. O….which I asked and received permission to call him. It’s still shocking and unbelieveable that the he is no longer with us. I truly miss him. Dr. O was simply an awesome person. He always had a smile on his face, told great stories, had a great sense of humor, was compassionate, helped people however he could, and just connected with anyone he talked to. I looked forwared to seeing him casually strolling by because I knew he would stop in and share some great “food for thought” for the day or when he would leave his office so the “chocolate bandits” could get some of his “top of the line” chocolate. I wish there was a “clone” of him because Lineberger, the university, and many peoples’ lives are just not the same without him. To the family, you are still in my thoughts and prayers. May God continue to give each of you amazing grace and strenghth to move forward.

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  19. Seth Noar

    Michael was one-of-a-kind – both in the quality of his work and the way he treated people. He was incredibly helpful and welcoming to me during the hiring process and after I came here to UNC. I could go to him with any question and he always had an answer (and with a smile!) He was very kind and I could see was a mentor to so many. He will be greatly missed and given all the lives he touched, his legacy will live on at UNC Lineberger and beyond.

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  20. Brian Springer

    It was such a shock to hear of Michael’s passing. It is hard to believe that I first met him more than 20 years ago. I got to know Michael in many points of my career .. as a staff person, graduate student, committee member, collaborator, and peer. No matter what role, he was the same person. Michael always took time to help. His warm, helpful nature, and mentorship were exceptional. He inspired me to “be like Michael” (not to be confused with Mr. Jordan). And it was just fun working with him. We should all aspire to have the impact he has had, in reading such wonderful comments. Heather’s and my thoughts are with Michael’s family. We will miss him very much.

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  21. Amy Garrett

    Michael was a role model for me and I admired him greatly. On my first visit to UNC Michael took me on a walk through the parking garage and offered friendly guidance and fun facts about UNC. After joining UNC, I’d often run into him in the parking garage as we were on our way to meetings and we‘d have the best quick chats. I often told him “I want to be you when I grow up” and we’d both laugh as he’d make a joke about why maybe I shouldn’t wish for that. I admired his ability to be a happy helper and people connector, able to make the difficult things easier and the boring things more fun. Only Michael could make street closures and plumbing problems funny and interesting. I’m blessed to have known him and aspire to “be like Mike”. His cheerful smile and warm, friendly ways will be missed.

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  22. Brad Wilson

    Michael was so kind and so warm it was sometimes easy to miss just how super intelligent he was. He had a nearly magical ability to make someone feel comfortable. Witty and deeply wise he will be missed but the impact he made on people will never fade.

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  23. Suzanne and Bob Fletcher

    We first met Michael shortly after we arrived at UNC in 1978, Bob to direct the UNC Clinical Scholars Program and Suzanne to direct the Department of Medicine Clinics. We were to help build the already strong UNC connection between the Schools of Medicine and Public Health. We were in our late 30s; Mike, in his late 20s. He came into our lives when, just finishing his masters degree, he applied for a research position we had posted – we think Jo Anne Earp sent him our way. For the next decade, Mike worked on numerous research projects with us (Jo Anne was also involved in many of them), mostly about ambulatory care, but later, breast cancer screening – which presaged Michael’s career-long work in cancer.

    Michael’s incredible abilities were obvious from the beginning, Highly intelligent, he was much more capable at running research projects than the usual new masters-level person. With his easy comfortable way, everyone – faculty, residents and patient subjects in the many research projects – enjoyed working with Mike. He was a major reason we got such high response rates in the group’s studies. He understood people as well as research methods.

    Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with Mike knows his love of UNC basketball, something we at first could not understand, having come from Montreal and ice hockey country. But Michael set us straight quickly. He also soon had us in an early-morning running group – which ultimately led to both of us finishing a marathon (Mike laid out a training schedule, assuring us success if we followed it).

    Although it has been 25 years since we left UNC , Michael was the kind of person who is part of one’s life forever. We were shocked and terribly saddened to learn of his sudden death, but all his good qualities shine through even death. Our lives, and that of so many others, are better because he lived and we had the opportunity to have worked with and know him. What better memorial can anyone have?

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  24. Laura Jensen & Jack Hyer

    Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.
    Author Unknown

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  25. Steve Price - Wake Forest School of Medicine

    I met Mike during my first week of work at the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest University in 2002 when UNC, Duke, and Wake Forest CCCs jointly hosted the annual meeting of the Cancer Center Administrators Forum at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, NC. I could tell from the first moment that I met him that he was a giving person and would always lend a helping hand when it was needed. He proved to be unfailing in that regard. We had an opportunity to see each other about 6-7 weeks ago and rekindled that connection, and of course, basketball and Dean Smith were among topics of discussion since he knew I had been an undergraduate at UNC. Many of us associated with administration at CCCWFU past and present were very sad to learn of his passing.

    On behalf of all of us who have been associated with the Comprehensive Cancer Center here at Wake Forest past and present, please know our deepest sympathies go out to his wife Nadine and daughter Bailey, as well as, his extended UNC family, especially those individuals who were connected to him through the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center and the Gillings School of Global Public Health whose lives were touched by Mike on a daily basis for so many years. He touched our lives also, and we know each of you will miss him for a long time to come.

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  26. Katrina Trivers

    There isn’t much that I can add that hasn’t been said before. We have truly lost one of the greats- he was an amazing mentor, scientist, and person. I was a pre-doc fellow in his program and I took for granted how truly extraordinary and generous he was. He treated me with respect, ALWAYS made time for me, and always did it with a smile on his face (and a joke!). He made time for me to discuss the big things (what do I want to do with my life) and the small (how do I get this poster made for this conference when I have no money!). His answer, by the way, on the latter was ‘tell them to put it on my tab’. =) My thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.

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  27. Ethan Basch

    Michael is one of the main reasons I came to UNC. I met him on my first visit here. He put his arm around me and walked me through most of the medical campus (cutting through parking decks and shortcuts I still can’t replicate). To me he embodies all I have come to love about Carolina – thoughtfulness, collegiality, kindness, sincerity. He built up cancer outcomes research here at UNC, which I and my collaborators benefit from every day. I will think of him always as we continue to build that program, particularly in our efforts to carry forward his model of mentorship.

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  28. Jeffrey Brantley, MD

    Mike and I went way back to Davidson in the early 70’s and later in Chapel Hill when I was in medical school and he was in graduate school in history. We shared a couple of apartments, went on road trips together, and played in countless pick-up basketball games in Woolen gym. Later, when Mary and I were married in Laguna Beach, California, he trekked across country and was in the wedding. I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing, and feel the loss of such a good man. I am heartened, though, by my many happy memories of Mike, and by the lengthy list of good works, and wonderful relationships he cultivated during his too short life. Rest in peace, dear friend.

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  29. Bill Carpenter

    I was absolutely stunned to hear of Michael’s passing, and remain in a state of utter disbelief. I have so many fond memories of UNC and the Cancer Center, with Michael so central to so many of them. He is simply irreplaceable. I know I am joined by dozens of his former fellows, trainees, and colleagues in being forever grateful for his unparalleled guidance and sage advice, exceptional support, opened doors of opportunity, friendship, warmth, quiet kindness, patience, perspective, and humor. I deeply value these daily gifts he gave us, and aspire to practice these rich qualities. In Michael, we ALL had a mentor and a friend. Very simply, I know that I am a better person and the world is a better place because of Michael, who will forever remain a role model for me. My most heartfelt condolences to Nadine and Bailey.

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  30. Talya Salz

    Michael was an exceptional mentor to me when I was a pre-doctoral fellow at Lineberger. He seemed to know the answer to absolutely every question about cancer, which is why all of my emails to him began “Dear Cancer Answer Man” – and he never failed to reply quickly and helpfully, even when neither the question nor answer had anything to do with cancer. As a grad student searching for topics to research, he made time to indulge all of my questions and never made me feel like I was low down on the academic food chain. As so many others have said here, he consistently linked me with other people with similar interests. He made research seem less formidable and actually a rewarding endeavor. Most importantly, Michael was a kind and generous person. I was always happy to chat with him when he made the rounds at Lineberger. He was an interesting, friendly, funny, and overall benevolent face of the cancer center.

    Michael was a rarity. He made time for all of us, treated us all with respect, and paved the way ahead. He demonstrated the impact that you can make by caring about what you do and the people around you. Reading all of the lovely messages posted here, it is striking how one person made so many people feel special – which is in large part what made Michael special himself. I can only hope to emulate these qualities in my own life. My thoughts are with his family in this sad time.

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  31. Hy and Loretta Muss

    Mike was a terrific guy. Always the first to offer help, He was consummately reliable and knew about everyone in the medical center – he was the “get er done” person. He was also the fountain of knowledge for UNC basketball history. We will miss him dearly and deepest sympathy to his family.

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  32. Keith Burridge

    I will so miss Michael. For 20 years or more we interacted. I loved running into him in the Lineberger atrium. We would stop and talk, and he was so full of stories. His memory for sporting statistics, for the lines of songs, for movie details, was encyclopedic. He would catch me and ask me if I knew what day it was and when I didn’t know he’d tell it me it was the anniversary of Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minute mile, or something similar. And his emails were always so entertaining and full of nuggets of interesting information.

    Let me share this part of an email which was one of the last between us:
    “That reminds me of a scene from the movie Field of Dreams. Burt Lancaster plays Archibald “Moonlight” Graham – a real life character who unbelievably was the brother of UNC President Frank Porter Graham. Moonlight’s briefest of major league careers consisted of a half inning in the outfield. He never batted. He abandoned baseball, went to medical school, and spent decades as a primary care doctor in a Minnesota town. Costner’s character says to Moonlight that some people would have considered that a tragedy – to have come so close. Lancaster’s character disagrees — to have been a doctor for only five minutes, he says, now that would have been a tragedy.”
    That was so typical of his messages, entertaining, but also so very poignant.

    Michael enriched the lives of so many of us. After every conversation, I left smiling. If I was down, I was encouraged. If I was depressed, my spirits were lifted. I will miss him greatly.

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  33. Susan Vadaparampil

    Dr. O’Malley was one of the people who interviewed me for a postdoctoral fellowship at the NCI. It was a very intimidating process where the entire committee interviews you around a long table and asks lots of questions. I remember getting stuck on a question asked by one of the committee members. Dr. O’Malley quickly saw that I was struggling. He graciously, but very inconspicuously, stepped in and made sure that the interviewer had her question addressed, allowing me the few seconds I needed to gain my composure and finish the rest of the interview. I was selected for the program, and have never forgotten his generosity and empathy in that very critical moment. Those few minutes of interaction with him showed me the kind of person and mentor he was. My deepest sympathies to his loved ones.

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  34. Holly Rio

    Michael had a tremendous gift for making everyone at Lineberger feel truly valued. A true servant leader, he was intentional about connecting with people in ways that were meaningful to them and that showed a genuine interest in their well-being. He found humor in the in the mundane, and offered regular reminders to those around him to enjoy the ride. While his passing is incomprehensible, he left behind a special and unique mark on all who were lucky enough to have known him.

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  35. David Cavallo

    Finishing a PhD program is hard and all students can identify a moment when someone held out their hand and provided a moment of grace. Michael was that person for me on numerous occasions and without his support I wouldn’t be where I am today. Even after I left the program Michael was looking out for me when he generously invited me to dinner with the UNC bunch when I was stranded alone at a conference. That was one fun night anchored by numerous hilarious stories Michael shared with us. He was one of a kind and will be dearly missed.

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  36. Alexis Moore

    For years my surest advice to anyone has been, “Ask Michael.” I turned to Michael for doses of clarity and humor whenever I faced an especially hard or unfamiliar situation at work. He cared about all of us at Lineberger. He could remember details about your life and your family. When you talked to Michael, more often than not, he would share a richly detailed story. Sometimes the details in his stories accumulated to make an important point. Other times they were just fun and interesting trivia that deserved your attention and a laugh. I loved his habit of walking through the atrium, when it was still fairly new, making small adjustments to how the chairs were arranged. Michael cared.

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  37. Sara Wobker

    When I came to CCEP, I was somewhat adrift in my career planning. I met Michael early on, taking his cancer control class. He immediately struck me as one of the kindest, most encouraging people I have ever met. At that point in my life, he was a much needed beacon. I found such comfort in knowing that he had also taken a lengthy, circuitous route to his “adult job” and the passion he had for the cancer center and his fellows was proof that it was worth the wait. Years after my fellowship, I still think of Dr. O’Malley as the defining presence of those two years, the Mentor of all mentors.

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  38. Anna Lee Clark

    Michael always found the time to connect with everyone he met. It was evident that finding commonalities with those he worked with meant so much to him and helped him to build so many friendships across the cancer center. I will miss his humor, his candy jar, and his “glass half-full” attitude. He touched so many lives, mine included and Lineberger will never be the same. We are all better because we knew Michael.

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  39. HJ Kim

    People often ask what makes Lineberger and UNC so special, and Michael embodied the qualities that I find so endearing about this place. He was always interested in what you were doing, supportive in his actions, and thoughtful with his advice. I will miss “catching up” with him, and his absence will be greatly felt throughout our community. My deepest sympathies to his family.

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  40. Sarah Tropman Hawley

    I am without words at the loss of Michael. I would not be where I am today without having had the chance to meet and work with him on the R25 program at Lineberger as a pre-doctoral fellow. He worked tirelessly to make sure I received the fellowship (along with others who also deserved it! and thanks to him we all did receive it!). During the fellowship he worked with me as a mentor, and served on my dissertation committee. His help, support, and sense of humor were key in my ability to complete my dissertation. I always looked forward to our meetings because he was always positive no matter what. Over the years, I have kept in touch with him including always making sure to meet with him when in Chapel Hill – he’s just one of those people you want in your life. This is a huge loss for UNC and the cancer outcomes community and for so many people who knew him. My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family.

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  41. Angela Stover

    Michael meant the world to the CCEP fellows (Cancer Control and Education Program R25). Many fellows came back to attend his semi-retirement party in 2013. I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career without Michael. During my first semester at grad school, I wasn’t sure what direction to take in research. I took Michael’s “cancer control” class and was so impressed with his breadth and depth of cancer knowledge and his excitement for the field. I decided to apply to the CCEP R25 fellowship and everything changed for me when I got Michael’s acceptance letter. I was very fortunate to be able to spend 2 years in the program and Friday afternoons with the CCEP crew. Michael helped me launch my cancer research career. I hope I can be as good a mentor someday as he was to me.

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  42. Christa Martens

    I first met Michael when I was a Master’s student while in his class. He made time for his students, and for me, both in and out of the classroom. Here he was, a high profile figure at Lineberger, and took time to talk with me about my career goals, put me in contact with other cancer researchers who would later become mentors, and made me feel that even as a student I was valued in the UNC and Lineberger community. The word “connector” describes him perfectly–remembering names, checking in, and always showing up with a smile. His kindness was vast and evident through his network of colleagues and friends. I have never met anyone quite like him and feel grateful to have known him. He will be missed.

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  43. Kellie Walters

    I took Dr. O’Malley’s cancer seminar in fall of 2013. I hadn’t originally signed up to take the class, but I’m so glad I switched into it. It my favorite class I’ve taken and Michael was one of the best teachers (judging against all my professors and teachers back to kindergarten). I looked forward to that class and enjoyed it so much. He had a way of bringing students across disciplines together. He both supported me in discussions and encouraged me to challenge myself. I really appreciated that and routinely recommended his class. Now that I’m working at UNC, I even considered looking into the possibility of taking it again.

    I was very sad to hear the news of Michael’s passing, but I also felt so grateful at the same time. Grateful I made the choice to take his class and grateful I knew him. Sending love to his family and close friends.

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  44. Lauren Beaumont

    Michael was my “North Carolina dad”. He always had a kind word, life advice, trivia tidbit, and an open invitation to dinner if I couldn’t make it home for the holidays. He could instantly put you at ease, even during a job interview (that may have gone slightly off course and ended up discussing cheap ways of traveling in Europe rather than the job requirements). I know we are all better people having known him. My deepest sympathies go to his family and friends. He’s one of a kind, and will be missed terribly.

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  45. Russ Harris

    Michael has been my friend, teacher, and mentor for 30 years. Not only was he kind and giving, but he was also exceptionally thoughtful and intelligent. He was a superb writer, going along with his clear thinking. It is hard to think of UNC without Michael.

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  46. Ellen de Graffenreid

    Michael lived his life well. He was a brilliant scholar and teacher and administrator, had a wide array of interests and boundless curiosity. I think he was always teaching, no matter what the interaction.

    Things he taught me: (1) Do something with your career that makes a difference; (2) Never pass up the opportunity to laugh; (3) Never stop learning; (4) People first, tasks second; (5) Say yes when someone gives you an opportunity; (6) Give compliments; (7) Be kind; (8) Ask about people’s families, really get to know them — and put your family first; (9) Think for a few hours before you send an email; (10) Deliver difficult news in person; (11) Love your dog.

    Every time I apply one of these principles, I think of Michael. May his memory be eternal.

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  47. Beth Clarke

    One of my favorite things and a true gift at Lineberger has been the opportunity to work for and with Dr. O’Malley. I always started smiling when I saw him coming even if we had something serious to discuss. He was one of the rare and special people in this world who always made the day brighter. And his sense of humor was of my favorite type – eye-rolling and completely gooney. And anyone who loves to stop and share book chat at any time is top 10 in my book. All comforting thoughts to his family, friends, and colleagues.

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  48. Sai Balu

    Michael was a wonderful person who helped me settle into my work at the cancer center and also helped me navigate a couple of tricky situations. I will always remember him as someone who was happy with life and was willing to spread that happiness around. I also wanted to ask him who his tailor was! I will cherish a lapel pin he once gave me. I will miss him.

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  49. Chris Fuller (Taylor)

    Yes… Michael had a special connection with all administrative personnel. Not with only those connected with LCCC, but the entire campus. He had a distinctive walk, so seeing him in a distance without being able to focus on his face (I wear tri-focals!!), one could determine that it was Michael. His towering over me gave me a sense of warmth and worth. No one was beneath him. Many wonderful thoughts for a wonderful man. Michael had an “uplifting” way about himself, one that many of us should choose to mimic. I will not forget him – ever.

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  50. Dianne Shaw

    Witty, warm and wise, Michael reached out to and connected with everyone at the cancer center. His sense of humor lightened many challenging moments and tasks. His emails were legendary for their word play and cleverness, even though the subject may have been quotidian.

    He visited people to listen to, learn, and see firsthand what was happening in labs, offices, peoples’ lives, and the community. And his whiteboard outlines and timetables displayed his unfailing ability to organize and execute the complicated and sometimes “cat herding” plans for grants, programs and site visits.

    Michael’s tastes were democratic. He was as happy with a daily special from the Tar Heal Café as he was with a fine restaurant meal or a home-cooked gourmet dinner. He was a fellow chocoholic, and we enjoyed sharing new chocolate “finds.”

    A true ambassador for UNC and UNC Lineberger, he will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with Nadine and Bailey.

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  51. Ken Jacobson

    Such a shock. I knew Michael for probably 3 decades, though maybe not with the familiarity of Cancer Center residents, but whenever we met, he was unfailing cheerful and always most helpful. Michael will be deeply missed.

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  52. Beverly Mitchell

    Michael cannot be replaced. He was such a wonderful person and friend, always available, always ready to help in any way. His upbeat nature and terrific sense of humor were uniformly uplifting, and his vast trove of knowledge of sports trivia may never be matched. I also will miss him greatly.

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  53. Arnold Kaluzny

    … Words cannot express my feelings of loss with the sudden passing of Mike. I have known Mike for 40 years as a student, colleague and most importantly as a friend.
    As a student Mike was exceptional . He brought a passion for new ideas and concepts and the ability to translate these to the realities of daily living. . For example in my Organization Design and Behavior class … one of the lectures is how “perspective frames the problem”… Mike would often comment or provide an example …and one I recall relates to a Mike’s experience in the NC mountains. While on a 5 mile run he passed this mountain cabin with this old guy sitting on the porch . Mike finished the run and was walking back … and the guy gets off the porch and walks up to Mike and asked ….” Did you catch’um?” …. Clearly from his perspective the only reason to be running was to …. “catch’um”
    As a colleague Mike and I designed and taught the Cancer Prevention and Control Seminar for many years . Always prepared and well organized. His enthusiasm was contagious, with many students such as … Carrie Klabunde and Pam Marcus receiving NCI fellowships and now distinguished careers at the NCI.
    Teaching was such a natural behavior for Mike … I would often forget that he had a full time and very demanding administrative position at the LCCC. Mike had the ability to make complex activities /responsibility look easy
    As a friend … always ready with a smile, a genuine concern for the welfare of others and a willingness to help others navigate the complexity of cancer care . Barb and I have been the personal beneficiaries of his help for which we are most grateful.
    Whether it is our random encounters at Whole Foods or the assurance that a resolution of some administrative problem is only one phone call away, I like so many others, will miss him dearly.

    A Kaluzny

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  54. Candice Lilley Ferguson

    I was a grad student with Michael at the Gillings School. As for most of the students, money was beyond tight and books were expensive. We split the cost and shared the text to our Organization Theory class. I had a bad habit of writing cynical comments in the margins which began a semster of witty and sometimes thoughtful exchanges, something the author of the text had never intended. Michael was so bright and already quietly thought outside the box. He was a broad, receptive thinker from whom I learned to value that very quality. I never saw him again after grad school, but clearly he left a lasting impression. His family, friends and colleagues are fortunate to have been a part of his life.

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  55. Barbara A. Paradise

    My husband Ed and I have lived next door to Michael for the last 12 1/2 years. No work connection. When Michael was home, he was HOME. His little dog Shelby and my little dog Maya were best friends. We saw each other most mornings. It was such a nice way to start the day. The dogs frolicking like crazy, knocking each other over, and Michael smiling from ear to ear. How he loved Shelby. And Nadine, and Bailey and us. Mornings just won’t be the same. Thank you Michael, for being our friend.

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  56. David Darr

    My condolences to his family. I will echo what many have said already; from his actions it was obvious he cared about the Cancer Center and everyone in it. An unabashed optimist he was always smiling and could find the lighter side in all circumstances. His emails during the Marsico construction are a testament to that. His encyclopedic like knowledge of NC politics, BBQ and sports always had me amazed. I still expect to see him turn a corner in Lineberger and ask me about one of our studies. A remarkable man, who is already greatly missed.

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  57. Michael Schell

    After I accepted an offer to join the Lineberger, Michael sent me a note saying “You’re going to love this job!” That thoughtful kindness by Michael was played out a thousand times more with me over the years. Michael knew how to wonderfully blend life and work in coaching and getting the best from faculty and students alike at Lineberger. I always enjoyed his visits to my office, words of encouragement, and his joy of life. He was indeed a great man.

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  58. Lisa Carey

    MIchael was the consummate jack-of-all-trades, the glue that held us in the Cancer Center together. He was an educator, a researcher, an able administrator, an advocate, an organizer, a reviewer, and a comedian. My favorite memories include his unbelievably detailed grant preparation white boards including timelines that, given that the rest of us were involved, ended up being more aspirational than reality, his being the one-man-band population sciences reviewer for the PRC (when you had Michael you didn’t need anybody else), and the jar of chocolates in his office. I have no idea how he stayed so slim with all those candies around. His emails, like Michael, ran the gamut. Sometimes they were incredibly detailed and specific instructions or requests. Sometimes they were updates on renovations or stuff that was broken, which ALWAYS involved a pun in the subject line. Who knew that the years of pounding noise and percussion from building Marsico Hall would be such fun….apparently only Michael. He made it all as entertaining as it could be – I remember once he wanted several of us to be more pithy when talking to legislators, and he sent an example he’d like for us to emulate. Turned out to be the Gettysburg Address, which was short (266 words as he pointed out) and a good challenge to put in context of UCRF (Four score and 7 genes ago….?). He embodied the best of Lineberger, the best of UNC, and the best of us. We’re going to miss him terribly.

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  59. Nancy DeMore

    I frequently ran into Michael walking through the Cancer Center and he always took the time to stop and talk and ask how things were going. His warm welcoming smile showed he truly cared. He was a great person that touched so many lives and will be dearly missed.

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  60. Sarah Birken

    Michael was a truly lovely person. Despite his deep understanding of cancer care, UNC, and academia in general, I always got the sense that Michael was learning from every interaction that he had – he was always thoughtful. Michael always had a smile on his face, and to hear him talk about his wife and daughter, it was clear that he had a very happy life. I will miss seeing Michael around campus and around town. His passing is such a profound loss for so many people. My deepest sympathies to his family.

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  61. Stacie Duestzina

    I will miss Michael – what a wonderful person and mentor. Michael was the first person that I met from Lineberger when visiting UNC for my first faculty job and he couldn’t have been any nicer to me. I remember him asking me about who I was – not my work but me as a person. He really cared about people. My thoughts and deepest sympathies to his family – I cannot imagine the pain you feel but know that we are grieving with you.

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  62. Yael Symes

    Michael inspired me to be a cancer researcher when I took his cancer prevention and control class 4 years ago. He was not only one of the best professors I’ve ever had; he was also a wonderful mentor and person. He always made time to talk through research ideas or anything else going on in my life (and he would remember everything I’ve ever told him!) He would always ask me which fun sci-fi book I was reading at the time and he’d let me go on and on about why he should immediately read that book. You could tell that he really cared about his family, his friends/colleagues, and all of his students. It was impossible not to smile while seeing him walk the halls of Lineberger or Rosenau. I’m lucky to have known him and I will miss him very much.

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  63. Deborah K. Mayer

    I was so saddened to hear the news. Michael was so welcoming and was the consummate ‘matchmaker’ between faculty with diverse interests. He wrote a letter of support for one of my first grants submitted at UNC–it was such a wonderful and touching letter, another researcher commented that I should get the funding based on his letter alone! This is a sad time for his family, friends, and our UNC community.

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  64. Jonathan Serody

    Michael was perhaps the kindest person that I worked with at the Cancer Center. I don’t remember in my almost 20 years of working here Michael ever saying something negative about anyone. His intelligence, brilliant sense of humor, strong moral compass and passionate love for the Cancer Center and UNC in particular will be sorely missed. I’ll miss having him pop into my office sometimes to say “hi.” Sometimes that was all he did and other times he would spend time seeing how you were or discussing issues important to him or the Cancer Center. A truly remarkable person-my thoughts and wishes go out to his family and to all of those who were privileged to work with him.

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  65. Nick Shaheen

    I loved working with Michael. I remember a Saturday morning about 20 years ago when we were stuffing mail-out envelopes for a study we were doing about colon cancer screening practices in North Carolina. I was a fellow and had no money for coordinators, so I was there with my wife, Amy, and a medical student. Michael knew we were doing it, and next thing I knew, he was there stuffing envelopes for 4 hours with us. Michael truly walked the walk when it came to research and education. He made Carolina and Lineberger special places to work, and will be deeply missed by all his colleagues.

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  66. Katy Jones

    Michael was a mentor, a friend and confidant for me in so many ways. He was often seen walking the halls of the cancer center, always stopping by to say “hello” just to check in with you. You could always tell he was really listening to you when you talked. We have lost a great man. My deepest sympathies go out to his family as they try to process his tragic death.

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