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.
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.
Dean Fagin has a long history of supporting faculty and fostering their productive careers. I came to a relationship with Claire late in my career as I received the professorship at Penn in 2006. I believe I was the first Fagin awardee who was not one of “Claire’s faculty” in that I did not serve Penn until after her retirement. Initially she and I were both uneasy about this–we had to break new ground. But immediately after the announcement of the award in 2008, I began receiving emails from her. Her warmth, support, and enthusiasm surrounded me, and continues to this day. With so many people to mentor, she reached out yet again to welcome me into her scholarly family. I will always remember that gesture with great respect and affection, and am so honored to recognize her leadership and support to all of us in nursing.
–Marilyn “Lynn” Sommers
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
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.
When I was Chairman of the Trustees and our President Sheldon Hackney resigned to take a position in Washington I needed to appoint a temporary President. There was never a doubt in my mind the strongest Dean was Claire. She was a no nonsense tell it like it was. She did a terrific job of cleaning up a lot of messes. If she had been younger at the time she might very well have been the permanent President. She really was the first female President in the Ivies. I got a little chuckle of thinking of the medical center and all those doctors reporting to a nurse! She is a great lady and good friend. Sally joins me in sending all our best.
–Alvin V. Shoemaker
Dear Dr. Fagin,
Although we have never been formally introduced, I wanted to wish you a very happy birthday!! What a thrill for me to work in the nursing school and to learn about all that you have done to make our school what it is today. It’s a thrill to have the chance to listen to you speak whenever you come to town for the Awards Program. I look forward to your talks every year because I know you will find a way to deliver a heartfelt, funny and relevant take on the subject at hand. I also wanted you to know how much I love being a part of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, a Center you championed from its inception and continue to do so right up to the present. Thank you so much!
All the best,
“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
Claire was “my Dean,” as I was making the transition from MSN to doctoral levels. I initially chose another school (that also chose me). When Claire asked me why, & also, to return to Penn, she said, “Sue, when you are AT the best, you STAY at the BEST!” I am so very grateful for this advice and endorsement so many years later. It is an honor and a pleasure to have had the opportunity to thank her for this and so many other things that she gave us all. I try to emulate her experience & knowledge in every way, as well as the way that she so unabashedly gave encouragement & support to her students. Love to you, Claire!
Claire was Dean of the School of Nursing when I entered the PhD program. She taught a first semester required Leadership course. I had just finished a three-year term on the Board of Directors of a national professional association and said to myself (internally) - why do I need to take this leadership course. From the first moment that Claire walked into the class - my question was answered. Claire exudes leadership in a way that no one I had ever come in contact with. Just being in her presence was a master class in itself. Claire is a gift to me, to the School, and to our profession.
I obtained my BSN at Penn and graduated in the class of 1991 (I believe we were the last undergraduate class to have Claire as our Dean for 4 years). There was a tradition that the senior class would sit down with Dean Fagin before graduation and have an informal question and answer session with her. Someone from our class asked her how her career progressed from staff nurse to Dean of our School of Nursing, essentially asking “how did you get where you are today?”
Dean Fagin replied that she always looked for opportunities to learn and grow, and when something “fell into her lap” she would look upon it as an opportunity, grab it, and run with it. Her words stayed with me and have helped shaped my career. After several years of being a staff nurse I was offered an opportunity to work on a hospital wide initiative looking at bed management and flow from the OR to the ICUs to the floors. They wanted an ICU nurse with clinical experience to help shape what the process looked like and how to improve it. I actually thought back to Dean Fagin’s words, wondering if this was one of those “opportunities” she was describing. I agreed to step away from the bedside for several months to join the project. I learned much from that experience. Having a “birds eye” view of the health system and how we deliver care motivated me to return to graduate school in the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program (then called the “Tertiary Nurse Practitioner Program”). Upon graduation another opportunity fell into my lap, the chance to begin my career as a new NP in a new Trauma Center, thus carving out the NP role as the new trauma center was created. Again, my thoughts turned to Dean Fagin’s words and I accepted the challenge - and never looked back!!
I am so grateful I came to Penn for my undergraduate and graduate education and thankful for the multitude of mentors I’ve had through the years. I am especially grateful of our Senior Class session with Dean Fagin and can honestly say her words still echo in my ears!
–Heidi Nebelkopf Elgart
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 photo taken from an NBC TV National Show on the Nursing Shortage in 1981. The show won an Emmy. Claire represented the school and I represented the hospital - we were without a director of nursing at the time. I have so many memories of these last exciting days as we struggled to define academic nursing. Claire was THE leader of these important milestones and will always remain my mentor, colleague and friend.
Thank you for all of your encouragement and for always taking the time for a brief hello and kind word for me.
I wish you much joy in reaching this wonderful milestone.
Melissa O’Connor, PhD’12
It’s all about impact and that, our dear Claire, is your legacy.
From one parent advocate to another, I will be forever grateful for wide shoulders. Thank you for being such an inspiration and thank you for the opportunity to watch in awe.
With love and admiration,
Celebrating my endowed van Ameringen Chair event with my mentor and friend, Claire.
I could not have received this honor without you. Thanks for all you have done for me.
Love ya, Loretta
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,
On November 28, at the Penn Club in New York City, Penn Nursing helped Claire M. Fagin, Professor of Nursing and Dean Emerita, ring in her 90th birthday. A joyful celebration with family, friends, alumni, faculty, and many more, we wished Claire our very best for this next decade and shared our thanks for her incredible passion for nursing and Penn.