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.
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.
Happy 90th Birthday! On a birthday several decades ago, when you were Dean of Penn Nursing, you wanted a second hole in your ear adding a hole for another pierced earring, do you remember? You wanted it before Sam told you not to get it!
I came to your office and you asked me where my ear piercing gun was, you thought all nurse practitioners had them. Instead, I had a needle, alcohol, and an apple, all we needed was an ice cube. You asked, “What do you think you are going to do with that?” I described the procedure and you had second thoughts. I gently suggested that you go to the Piercing Pagoda at the King of Prussia Mall. You were not sure you had time before Sam could stop you!
Just think how way ahead of your time you were with all the multiple piercings people wear today! As they say, you were a real trendsetter, way before your time.
All the best at 90 years young, and much love,
Beth Ann Swan
MSN 1983 and PhD 1996
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,
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.
You are my mentor, teacher, advocate and leader. My career and life would not be the same without you.
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!
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
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.
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
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.
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
You have been and will continue to be my guiding spirit. You have created untold opportunities for me to have a major impact on the care and outcomes of vulnerable older adults and their family caregivers. I, and more importantly, the people who depend on nurses for guidance and support owe you countless thanks. I don’t know what mystical spirit arranged for me to be one of the starlets in your universe but I wake up every day feeling so blessed to have you as a treasured mentor and friend.
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.
Claire, I remember so well coming to see you as a young faculty member seeking an appointment in the School of Nursing when you were the Dean. Since I am not a nurse by training, I was afraid you would tell me to look elsewhere. Instead you immediately embraced the idea of having an inter-professional colleague in the form of me, an epidemiologist. I will be forever grateful for your enthusiastic welcome and support.
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.