Gene O’Kelly

Gene O’Kelly: Chasing Daylight

Gene O’Kelly’s rebooting story is different from any you will read on this website, and probably different from any you will ever read anywhere.

Gene was chairman and CEO of KPMG, one of the nation’s biggest accounting firms. One day in 2005, at age 53, he was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and given about 100 days to live. He made the most of those 100 days. He rebooted himself to write a book on how to die.

Gene O’Kelly

“Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life,” written by Gene with help from his wife, Corinne O’Kelly, and co-writer Andrew Postman, is a day-by-day account of Gene’s steady decline. A New York Times book review by Janet Maslin said in part:

“… The author taught himself new survival strategies when the habits of a lifetime failed him. Mr. O’Kelly described discovering the world around him — nature, connection with loved ones, living in the moment — as if he had never seen it before. Possibly he hadn’t. But once the bad news came, he searched for ways to savor what was within his grasp without yearning for the impossible. His religious faith was a great help in this — even if on his first post-diagnosis visit to church, the sermon happened to be the one about the camel, the eye of the needle, the rich man and heaven.

“He described his situation with dignified restraint. And he did not become one of the world’s great philosophers. But he wound up voicing universal truths not often found in business or how-to tracts. He shared them simply and clearly. And yes, he made a success out of this final mission.”

I served two years with Gene on the board of directors of the Stanford Business School Alumni Association. I had a great deal of respect for his intelligence and drive. It was a shock when I heard about his death. His book left me in awe. But that was Gene. Rebooting doesn’t get any more profound than this.Lee Callaway