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.
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.
I love this picture of Claire and Ellen Fuller. This picture was taken around 1984. Their partnership helped launch our school from a school of nursing with a focus on education and practice to one of the finest schools of nursing dedicated to advancing nursing science. Claire’s vision was the driving force in shaping the mission–it was not an easy task. Under her guiding hand we were able to form partnerships with our colleagues in the school of medicine. In those early days of the Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Scholars program (Claire was one of the influential members of the program) the school of nursing faculty were finally recognized as independent researchers and full partners in the research enterprise at the University of Pennsylvania. I am most appreciative of Claire’s mentorship and friendship.
Meeting Claire Fagin was like breathing in wonderfully fresh air. It was 1977 and I was Assistant Vice President for Health Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania. The Vice President, Tom Langfitt, was key in a search process for a new Dean of Nursing. Claire was a candidate. She breezed, literally, into the office wearing elegant leather pants, a self-assured smile on her face and a walk that more than hinted at her taking over the world. Well, it wasn’t quite the world she took over – but it was the School of Nursing and later on the whole University. Her leadership, smarts, and humor shaped and changed things – moving them forward to new horizons. I’d say she was also beautiful and sexy, but that probably would be un-p.c.
Over the years, my treasured friendship with Claire grew. It has been and always will be a treat to be with her. It is still like breathing wonderfully fresh air.
I don’t have one particular story to share, but instead I have two decades of memorable experiences accumulated from each time I am with you. I cherish our interactions because every time I learn from you, laugh with you, plan with you, and gain confidence and motivation from you. For that I am grateful and appreciate all the great things you have done for nursing and for me personally. Best wishes and congratulations on your milestones with many more to come.
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
To work with Claire Fagin during her deanship was like experiencing a Mac and Windows running simultaneously. She invented multi-tasking before anyone thought to coin the term. She created such an infectious, vibrant and challenging atmosphere as well as creating so many advocates for nursing throughout the University and well beyond.
The pioneering spirit of the Fagin years at Penn Nursing was so infectious and so special.
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.
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,
My first memory of Claire Fagin was when, as a MSN student, we had the honor of meeting with her as our new dean. She shared her vision for what Penn Nursing could be. It was inspiring and very different from where we were as a school. I recall that a student asked her why we no longer made the Penn nursing cap available to students and what would this student do if she were to take a job in a facility where they mandated wearing a cap. This was 1977. Claire’s response set the stage as the captain of the rocket ship that would propel us into the new and exciting age. With full dignity and forcefulness, she said “No Penn grad would take a job in a facility where she had to wear a cap.” I nearly did a cartwheel with joy. We were off and running toward greatness. Thank you Claire - vision, courage and appropriate irreverence!
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
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.
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
In 1993 just after Claire had been made the Interim President of the University, a group of us were in the ladies room after the Trustees’ meeting. Suddenly someone shouted, “Heads up, the President is in the ladies room!” It took us about two seconds to realize that of course the President was in the ladies room…it was Claire! Everyone cheered for the first woman President of the University of Pennsylvania.
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
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
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.