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A Celebration of Claire M. Fagin

On the 40th anniversary of her arrival at Penn and the 10th anniversary of naming our building, Claire M. Fagin Hall, we are proud to celebrate the ongoing impact of Dr. Fagin on our school and the profession of nursing.

Claire Fagin’s deanship was transformational for Penn Nursing in many ways, including strengthening our commitment to student support. To this day, Claire remains dedicated to ensuring Penn Nursing remains the number one school of nursing, which means we must continue to attract the best and brightest students. What better way to honor Claire and celebrate her 90th birthday than to establish a scholarship in the name of her and her husband, Sam – two of the School’s greatest advocates.

Please join us in raising $125,000 to establish the Claire and Sam Fagin Scholarship at the School of Nursing and help to ensure that the most talented students have access to the exceptional education and incredible opportunities that are unique to our School.



Messages to Claire

Below is a rotating sample of the many messages to Claire received from friends at Penn Nursing and beyond in honor of her 90th birthday. To add your message for publication on the website, please submit it here.


  • I first met Claire in 1973 when I began teaching nursing at Lehman College, a Bronx division of CUNY. I have been her devoted fan ever since. I followed her to Penn in 1981 & stayed in touch when I moved my teaching life to NYU in 1995. We have traveled together, partied together, laughed & cried together. She has been the steadfast rock in my professional life & a wonderful fun friend in my personal life. Her judgement & advice have been rock solid and her sense of humor the best.

    My dear Claire, do you remember being in New Orleans at an NLN meeting in the ’70s or ’80s, when we kept telling each booth: “Have curriculum, will travel!” What fun it was to create & live that curriculum! You are a continuing joy in my life. Hank & I send love to you & Sam on this wonderful occasion.

    –Ellen Baer

  • We have known Claire since 1993.  Jodi and I worked for Claire when she was the interim president at Penn. We go to NY a few times each year to visit with her and Sam and love our time with her.  Last Christmas we took our children to see them. Claire is FAMILY to us. 

    –Michelle Jester & Jodi Sarkisian

  • I have a very clear memory of Dr. Fagin, Dean Fagin at the time, speaking to our small group of PhD students in dissertation seminar.  In answer to a question about policy change, Dean Fagin went to the chalk board and drew sketches explaining how she accomplished some major changes both inside and outside the University.

    Those drawings changed my professional life.  I was truly amazed by what a nurse can accomplish.  She was talking about substantive changes in a way that made them seem possible and relatively simple.  I decided following her lecture that after I finished my PhD, I too was going to be a change maker.  I learned later via experience that Dean Fagin simplified the “how to”, I am very glad she did.  She inspired me to try in earnest and I followed her lead since that important class many years ago.

    –Kathleen Brown, PhD

  • Claire, receiving the Claire M. Fagin Distinguished Researcher Award was not only an honor but also an opportunity for me to reflect on my research but also how the science of family caregiving evolved.  In that process I discovered more about what I already knew— that you made an incredible contribution to that science and to the care of children and their families. 

    In honor of that contribution I want to share the poem I wrote to close my lecture. 

    From our roots we grow
    Haphazard it seems at times but connected nonetheless
    By everyday experiences and expectations
    Some of us more privileged than others
    Bound to our sense that unless others are strong we are not
    Strengthening and building on what we have
    To live the life that we all can

    Janet A. Deatrick

  • When I came to the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 Dean Dorothy Mereness was the dean and Dean Theresa Lynch was around as Dean Emeritus. When Martin Meyerson became President of Penn he questioned undergraduate professional education and the Penn School of Nursing was among the educational programs threatened. Dean Merreness deserves enormous credit for the persuasive and diplomatic manner in which she convinced the University administration about the many advantages of Penn utilizing its heath education resources to support a School of Nursing. Dean Mereness made it possible to recruit Dean Claire M. Fagin, and the presence and leadership of Dr. Fagin has been a blessing to the Penn School of Nursing, the valuable profession of nursing, and the University. It has been a privilege to be associated with Dr. Fagin during her entire 40 years at Penn and I hope and pray that her tenth decade will be healthy and blessed. 

    –Duncan W. Van Dusen

  • You introduced me to interdisciplinary education and practice when I was a resident and you were Dean at Lehman – it changed my career! Our friendship and your wise counsel have also enriched my life in so many ways!!  My deepest thanks, dear Claire.

    –Jo Ivey Boufford

  • Dear Claire,

    You are my mentor, teacher, advocate and leader.  My career and life would not be the same without you.

    Much Love,
    Gates Rhodes

  • Dearest Dean Fagin,

    I had the most wonderful 40-year career at the University of Pennsylvania, and I owe it all to you.  As Dean, you made sure that each of your faculty was supported and encouraged so that they could be successful.  I was certainly a beneficiary of your amazing caring leadership. Words are insufficient in expressing my gratitude to you.  So thank you for all your help and for being our Dean. Congratulations on the continued recognition of your remarkable achievements and for mentoring so many nursing leaders.

    Mary Ann Lafferty Della Valle

  • This is a picture from 1991 when 5 of us were inducted into the Academy. This was (and I think still is) the largest number of inductees in one year from any school. Pictured left to right: Connie Carino, Joanne Disch, Claire Fagin, Ann O'Sullivan, Cynthia Scalzi, and Jane Barnsteiner.This is a picture from 1991 when 5 of us were inducted into the Academy. This was (and I think still is) the largest number of inductees in one year from any school. Pictured left to right: Connie Carino, Joanne Disch, Claire Fagin, Ann O'Sullivan, Cynthia Scalzi, and Jane Barnsteiner.Claire-isms:

    “Work the crowd, you can talk with your friends later” as she squeezed our arms when we were attending a social event on behalf of the school

    “Don’t wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder. If you want something, go make it happen.” Sage advice (that I continue to use) when I asked her how people got into the Academy.

    “Tears behind the eyes,” on how she kept her composure in difficult meetings when she would be challenged by uncivil behavior on the part of peers from other parts of the University.

    “Hasn’t nursing been good to us!”  Her joy in letting us know our annual salary increase, back when the faculty was small enough that she met with us individually to do our annual appraisal; and in exulting over our shared profession.

    Lovingly, Jane Barnsteiner

  • Dearest Claire,

    You became my muse when I was your student in the doctoral leadership course.   I still quote your brilliant insights from that course to my students, to my family, to whomever I can, whenever I can.  You have been a guiding light to generations of nurses and I am so fortunate to have known you as a teacher, a Dean, a President and a dear friend.   We celebrate you today and every day. For all you have done to inspire me, mentor me and warm my heart- I am eternally grateful. 

    Terri Lipman

  • Claire was legendary before I met her, and I was thrilled at last to do so in 1982, when I was invited to consider a faculty position at Penn–because Claire had already recruited so many people from NY, I was told (by her) that she was not recruiting me–others were! Anyway, I got the job (without a job talk, or even a contract until after I moved here–talk about trust!). On arrival, I was to report to the Business Administrator (Pat Burke) for an office and some orientation. I earned $26,000–and I thought I had just landed on the moon. What a glorious time–building a school, creating programs, establishing research, working with some of the best faculty and students anywhere. The guiding mantra was be the best and be #1–and we all believed it, and became it, and were changed forever.

    A thousand thank yous and love,
    Neville Strumpf

  • We honor and salute your extraordinary career of visionary leadership, innovative scholarship and exceptional achievements.

    Your invincible spirit, impeccable instincts, and transformational vision for nursing education, research and practice have placed you at the pinnacle of universally respected and beloved Legends of Nursing.

    Your grace, kindness and generosity have no bounds. We are ever grateful for your enthusiastic support, encouragement and appreciation for the basic sciences faculty in our School of Nursing. It has been a distinct privilege and true joy to have worked under your guidance and leadership.

    With sincere gratitude and warmest wishes,

    –Zee and Tom

  • It is such an honor and thrill to send you best wishes on your “major milestones” and to be able to celebrate with you at the 2016 Fagin Award lecture and reception! I have so many wonderful memories of coming to Penn in the late 1980s, being hired into the SON fold as you, Joan Lynaugh, Mathy Mezey, Neville Strumpf and Lois Evans (among others) advanced nursing practice. You championed advanced practice and faculty practice models and I love that Penn Nursing Network practices, including the Continence practice, began under your tenure. I still get asked “what’s a nice girl like you doing in job like this (referring to urology)?” and smile when I think of the somewhat crazy things Mathy and I did (with your blessing) to provide care for frail, older persons with urinary incontinence. You were, and continue to be, an inspiration and I thank you for all you’ve done for nursing, geriatric nursing, and health care!

    Best wishes to you Claire, and I look forward to many more celebrations!
    With love and gratitude,
    Chris Bradway

  • I send warmest wishes and lots of love to you on your special day.  I’m always so grateful that you served as Dean to my school, and as Interim President of my University.  I am also aware that it was you who arranged for me to receive an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.  As always, you pressed forward to have nurses recognized and acknowledged.  That doctorate of many, is most special to me.  Thank you, thank you.

    With gratitude and love,
    Shirley Chater

  • All of these memory statements probably begin with…”there can be no one best memory,” for knowing Claire is an adventure with endless moments where you stop in wonder at the person across the desk, classroom, dinner table, living room.  Claire is like no one else.  I met Claire in 1992 when I joined the Penn School of Nursing to be in charge of alumni and development.  In fact, I met her before I moved to Philadelphia and began work.  I can remember exactly where I was standing, what time of day it was and the sun streaming into my living room in Milwaukee, Wisconsin when I picked up the phone and Claire – who I had never met before and had no warning would call me – was on the phone.  She wanted to find out who I was and fill me in on all that awaited me – and us – in fundraising for the best nursing school in the world.  I can’t remember all of the details of our conversation, but I do remember that when the call was over I was completely engaged and enthralled what lay ahead for me at Penn.

    I’ve always described Claire as someone who could move in a nanosecond between making the most astute and insightful comment on how to solve a healthcare problem and noticing that you had done something different with your hair.  Her incredible attention to you as a person at the very same time she was moving healthcare forward resulted in an extraordinary blend of professional excellence and deeply personal commitment to support and celebrate all who work to make the world a better place.

    –Kate Judge

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