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.
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
My first contact with Claire was in the spring of 1979 when she called me to come to Penn Nursing to start a new midwifery program. I was then Director of the graduate midwifery program at Columbia University and trying to finish my doctoral program. As I was later to realize, Claire, you were an expert in recruiting and made me an offer I could not refuse. Not only did you offer me the opportunity to create a midwifery program from the ground up in the way I thought it should be done (I had taught and directed two programs to date for 8 years - both of which were the longest running programs), you agreed to pay for me to finish data collection with a statistical consultant so that I could finish my Doctor in Public Health degree and offered me a very nice salary to do what I loved doing! Your leadership of Penn Nursing was stellar, and I benefited as did many other relatively junior faculty. What stands out about you in my mind, Claire, is your character. You are honest, caring, stubborn when needed, and most of all, trustworthy. You shared that trust in me to establish a top-rated midwifery program and practice, and your encouragement, support, and unquestionable loyalty brought out the best in me and in Penn Nursing. I learned many valuable life lessons from you Claire that have served and continue to serve me well in the international efforts to save the lives of women and newborns, using competent, caring midwives. Many blessings for your continued mentoring and enjoyment of whatever life brings your way. I regret I cannot be with you in person on October 26th, but will be with you in spirit.
Joyce Beebe Thompson
To Claire, quintessential leader, role model, wise sage… I remember from the late 1980s those days of many struggles to bring The CARE Program to life…One special memory sticks out: Being in your Office when you shared a memo you had just received from a department chair from ‘across the street.’ Here are a couple of prescient quotes:
“Within the context of a University program it seems that the service and clinical care aspects of this endeavor would be under the auspices of the Medical Center, while the research and educational activities might be more appropriately directed by the School of Nursing… No clinical program should be operated by nurses; this is tantamount to practicing medicine without a license.”
Your response was ‘pure Claire’!! Apoplectic, yet determined to make this happen…CARE’s gestational period took a little longer than had been hoped, but we need never have feared…With your clear vision about the place of nursing in the academy, your stellar leadership and perseverance, it slowly advanced.… Then, as Acting President of the University, you were front and Center for the monumental Ribbon Cutting Ceremony when The CARE Program – the School’s first major owned and operated academic practice – was born!!!
Thank you again for teaching us so many important lessons!!!
Lots of Love,
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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,
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.
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.
Thank you for your mentorship and wise counsel over many years. I am at Penn because of you. You were right on this as always as I’ve loved every minute at Penn. We have experienced many career highs together and visited wonderful places together from Bellagio to Santiago to St. Petersburg and including a wonderful time in San Juan last year with Sam and Mary. Looking forward to continuing our adventures.
With much admiration and love,
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
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.
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.