Michael Stephen O’Malley, 64, died unexpectedly on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at his home in Chapel Hill. Michael had recently retired from his role as Associate Director, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center after more than 30 years of service to the state of North Carolina. His wife, Nadine Ishmael O’Malley, daughter Bailey Gatens, and their much-loved dog Shelby were the lights of Michael’s life. He was a great cook and loved to cycle. He was an avid follower each summer of the Tour de France. He was a lifelong basketball fan, played intense lunchtime games at Woolen Gym and was a member of the basketball team that won the 1990 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) national championship in the men’s 40+ league. For more than a decade he played on the “Great Sax” volleyball team where he was fondly nicknamed “Pie”, and met many lifelong friends. In all of his athletic, work, and personal endeavors, he displayed a remarkably wry and witty sense of humor. He was a beloved husband, father, brother, uncle, friend, mentor and colleague who will be deeply missed.
Michael was the son of Joseph and Nancy Kieffer O’Malley and grew up in Atlanta, GA, with his brother, Richard, and sister Mary O’Malley Huff. He graduated in 1968 from Druid Hills High School. Michael attended Davidson College, graduating in 1972 with a degree in history. Reading history was a continuing passion throughout his life. He served in the US Army Reserve from 1972-1980. He began his career in medical research and service roles in UNC School of Medicine and UNC Hospitals. This interest led him to obtain an MPH and a PhD in Health Policy and Management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He left Chapel Hill for just one year to work as a senior manager with the United Mine Workers Health and Retirement Funds in Washington, DC during which time he met his wife, Nadine. In 1990, they moved back to North Carolina when he took a leadership position at UNC Lineberger, where he served until his retirement in 2014. 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.
Michael also served as an adjunct associate professor of health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, where he counseled and mentored countless students. He taught a course in the school for more than twenty years, educating hundreds of students on cancer prevention and control. He co-directed for twenty-three years the Cancer Control Education Program, a National Cancer Institute funded pre- and postdoctoral training program in cancer prevention and control. His cancer prevention trainees now hold faculty, research, and service positions across the nation. Michael was an indispensable source of advice and counsel to both UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and Lineberger Cancer Center.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Michael is survived by his sister Mary Huff and husband, Andrew, and their children, Jack, Lindsey, and Sam of Louisville, KY; sister-in-law Claudette Croushore and husband Dean of Richmond, VA and their children Rachel, Monica, and David (wife Maggie and baby son Reid); brother-in-law Scott Ishmael and wife Jennifer of Galway, Ireland and their children Sarah, Andrew, and Brian; and other dear family and friends. He was predeceased by his father, mother, and brother.
The family will receive friends from 3:00-6:00 pm on Monday, June 29 at Nadine and Michael’s home in Chapel Hill. A memorial service to honor Michael and reflect on his life and service to the cancer center will be held Saturday, August 22, at the Genome Sciences Building on the UNC campus (Auditorium, room G200). The time has yet to be determined and will be provided at a later date.
In his memory, please consider donating to the Michael S. O’Malley Cancer Prevention Fund at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. The fund will carry on Michael’s passionate life’s work, funding innovative education and research initiatives at UNC Lineberger designed to prevent cancer.
For updates on the memorial service, details on donating memorial gifts, and for sharing your thoughts and reflections with the family, please go to michael.web.unc.edu.