Patricia Dunn, 58, the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chairwoman who authorized a boardroom surveillance probe that sullied her remarkable rise from investment bank typist to the corporate upper class, has died.

Ms. Dunn, who had cancer, died Sunday at her home in Orinda, Calif., according to her sister, Debbie Lammers.

Once one of the most powerful women in corporate America, Ms. Dunn saw her career tarnished in 2006 when she was ousted from HP and brought up on criminal charges - which were ultimately dropped - for approving HP's plan to snoop into the private phone records of board members, journalists and HP employees to catch people leaking to the media.

The scandal unfolded as Ms. Dunn battled a disease that had haunted her through an investment banking career and a stormy stretch on the board of technology giant HP.

Her time at HP coincided with some of the company's most contentious and challenging periods. Ms. Dunn joined HP's board in 1998 and was instrumental in the hiring and firing of CEO Carly Fiorina, whose flamboyant personality and ferocity in securing the $19 billion purchase of Compaq Computer Corp. helped hasten her ouster amid a sagging stock price and disappointing results from the combined company.

Ms. Dunn announced Fiorina's ouster in February 2005 and named her low-key successor, Mark Hurd, previously CEO of NCR Corp. Hurd himself was ousted last year after an investigation into a sexual harassment claim found inconsistencies in expense reports filed.

Once an aspiring investigative reporter, Ms. Dunn, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, found work in the financial world. After working briefly as a part-time reporter for a community newspaper in San Francisco, she began her corporate climb by capitalizing on a temporary typist gig at an investment firm in the 1970s. She turned the two-week typing assignment into full-time work and rose quickly through the ranks. She became CEO of Barclays Global Investors in 1995.

At the height of her corporate success, she was diagnosed with cancer, and had 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 and criminal probes, and forced Ms. Dunn's resignation. - AP