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After working briefly as a part-time reporter for a community newspaper in San Francisco, Dunn began her corporate climb by capitalizing on a temporary typist gig that she landed at an investment firm in the 1970s.

She was able to turn the two-week typing assignment into full-time work and managed to quickly rise through the ranks by earning a reputation as a hard-edged businesswoman. That reputation eventually helped her earn the promotion to CEO of fund management behemoth Barclays Global Investors in 1995.

Dunn’s life had been far from charmed.

Financial difficulties dogged her family throughout her childhood, and her father, a vaudeville actor, died of a heart attack before she was a teen. After the death, the family moved to Marin County, north of San Francisco, and her mother’s emotional health deteriorated.

Dunn’s mother later died of breast cancer.

It was at the height of Dunn’s corporate success when she was diagnosed with cancer herself, forcing her to step down in 2002 from her role as Barclays CEO to fight breast cancer and melanoma.

Two years later, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and in fall 2006, she underwent surgery for a metastasized tumor _ three weeks before the public learned of the HP investigation that spawned congressional investigations, criminal probes and forced Dunn’s resignation.

As Dunn and others involved in the probe grappled with the fallout, the public was given a rare view of the workings of a board consumed with bitter rivalries and dysfunction.

The probe Dunn authorized ultimately identified renowned physicist and former presidential adviser George Keyworth as the director who spoke anonymously to a technology news website about a confidential board retreat. Some viewed the article as innocuous. Venture capitalist Tom Perkins resigned from the board in protest over the investigators’ tactics.

Dunn’s family is planning a memorial service in San Francisco.

Dunn is survived by her husband, Jahnke; three adult children, Janai Brengman, Michelle Cox and Michael Jahnke; ten grandchildren; a brother, Paul Dunn, and a sister, Lammers.