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 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,
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
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!
“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
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,
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
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.
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
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.
Claire M. Fagin was a dean extraordinaire! I cannot imagine working with a more marvelous leader of an academic unit, a more supportive administrator of faculty, staff, and students, or a wiser person than Claire.
It was an honor to have been recruited to Penn by Claire in 1978 and to work with her throughout her tenure as dean, to be at Penn when she became our Interim President, and to work her again when she returned to the School of Nursing as our senior faculty member.
I learned so much about nursing education and administration of nursing education from Claire. I became a much better faculty member than I could have ever anticipated because of Claire.
I join all of our colleagues in thanking Claire billions and billions of times over, and in wishing her great continued success in all she does.
You are my mentor, teacher, advocate and leader. My career and life would not be the same without you.
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.
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.
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.